Every once in a while I am surprised in court. Today, happens to be one of those days.

Henry Rogers killed Dustin Davis last summer but he took a plea last week and was sentenced today to two years in prison for a misdemeanor.

Dustin’s parents forgive him.

Rogers, 28, punched Dustin, 35, in the chin and he fell, hitting his head on the pavement, which caused a blood vessel to rupture in his head and he died the next day. The state couldn’t charge Rogers with a more serious charge because it couldn’t prove intent. The only witnesses were friends of Rogers’ and the prosecutor said they recanted their stories and changed them more than once.

The defense called it a “tragic” or “freak” accident.

Dustin’s father, Donnie Davis, told me after the sentencing that justice in the court system doesn’t prevail but one day Rogers will have to “stand before God and it will be a different story. The truth will prevail.”

Virginia Davis, Dustin’s mother, said in a statement to the court she also forgave Rogers and hopes he will accept Christ  one day. “You have to pay for what you did but God still loves you.”

Donnie and Virginia are plain spoken Georgia folks but I don’t hear many parents or family members speak as graciously  to an offender as these two in their victim impact statements. Most ask for the most punishment, and the Davis’ did say two years, which is the maximum, isn’t enough punishment, but they seemed to want the chance to tell Rogers about their “beloved” son and how he will be missed.

Donnie was a good man with a great sense of humor, his parents said. He loved his family, especially his niece Sabrina, 5, who adored him. He was a like a father figure to her. Donnie was their only son and they take comfort knowing his kidneys and liver gave life to three others and that he will be in heaven.

Dustin “Dusty” Davis

Linn County Clerk of Courts Sharon Modracek is taking some heat this week for a mistake which led to a man being released from jail who shouldn’t have and he landed up assaulting two police officers during a traffic stop.

Modracek stood up and took the blame for one of her clerk’s mistakes. In a time when not many who hold local, state or national offices readily admit mistakes and take responsibility, I think she deserves credit for that. She’s an honest lady and I know she feels bad and I’m sure that clerk who made the mistake does.

Chris Houston, 20, is accused of assaulting the two Cedar Rapids police officers last Thursday. Officer John Dunkelberger broke his right hand, and Officer Tracy Schmidt took an elbow to the face.

Houston was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit a felony and assault causing bodily injury in June 2009 after  he punched another teenage boy with brass knuckles and took his property. He got a 10-year suspended prison sentence and ordered to spend up to a year in a Cedar Rapids halfway house.

He then racked up some other violations and landed up back in jail. Judge Marsha Beckelman then ordered Houston to remain jail until the time of his next hearing – Feb. 15. But Houston was released Feb. 7 after his mother paid 10 percent of the $10,000 bond at the clerk of court’s office.

When Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden found out about his release he filed an application to bring him back into custody without bail. Senior Judge Thomas Koehler granted the request and an arrest warrant was issued but Houston was free for 37 days until the traffic stop.

Granted, this was a bad mistake, but I don’t think anybody should hold Sharon or a clerk responsible for Houston’s actions. It’s rare that the Linn County clerks make this kind of mistake. Covering the courts and dealing with them on a daily basis I know how conscientious they all are about their work. They are a dedicated group of people and many of them have been there for years, and are knowledgeable about every facet of the system.

You can’t imagine the mounds of paperwork that come into that office each day. I seldom see the clerks taking a break because they are too busy. If they’re not imputing numerous orders and other documents, they are filing, answering the phones, helping residents and lawyers at the window.

The clerks have been under some unusual pressure over the last two years. They just got through the flood and then got hit again with the budget cuts, as all the state courts. The office lost three clerks and those positions won’t be filled. All the clerks have more responsibilities and had to cross train to be able to cover for each other with fewer people.

I’m not making excuses for them just offering another point of view. We all make mistakes so don’t be so quick to “cast that first stone” cause you may get a black eye 😉

This really isn’t a relative post for St. Paddy’s Day but you have to embrace the Legally Weird news when it happens.

A guy in Arizona was sentenced for stabbing his roommate because he wouldn’t let him suck his blood. Really?!

Aaron Homer was sentenced to three years of probation for stabbing his roommate in the arm. Apparently, the roommate had offered up his blood in the past for Homer and his girlfriend and the two being fans of “True Blood” often act out some of the gruesome scenes from the series. They must be acting out a lot because if you’ve watched the series you know there’s many.

This caught my attention because it’s bizarre but also because I just saw some interviews with former members of a Kentucky vampire cult formed in the mid 1990s. The cult members, mostly in their teens, drank human blood, sacrificed animals and indulged in sex and drugs. Their leader Rod Ferrell killed a Central  Florida couple in 1996, which ended their cult.

My point in all this is are we too fascinated with vampires? Look at our TV series  – “True Blood,” Vampire Diaries,” “Being Human,” and lets not forget the continuing movie saga Twilight. I’m a bit guilty myself of that fascination with the thought of immortal life but it’s purely fantasy and entertainment. Honestly, I faint at the sight of real blood. The thought of being bitten doesn’t appeal to me. I’m a wimp when it comes to pain. And besides that, have you ever looked at a vampire’s teeth. Gnarly!

Check the Rod Ferrell story. It’s wacky. I’m guessing he wasn’t hugged enough as a child.

Sixth Judicial District Awards were presented today to many employees, who as Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins said are the “faces of the court system.”

Most of these employees are the ones behind the scenes making the court system run smoothly and efficiently. They don’t get much recognition. They usually take the brunt of the someone’s worst day being in court or having to pay a ticket or fine of some kind. But today, they received much appreciated claps and hugs from co-workers and judges.

6th Judicial District court reporters with Chief Judge Patrick Grady. Photo provided by Kellee Cortez

The “Teamwork Award” went to a noteworthy group – the court reporters. They lost the most in the 2009 budget cuts and it has pulled them together and made them stronger.

Sarah Hyatt, a court reporter, said they communicate better and they all cover for one another. Each day brings changes in the schedule, so if one reporter finishes up early, she’s checking in the with others to give assist.

Judge Nancy Baumgartner said the reporters’ combined work experience is 465 years and each are professional, dedicated, flexible and just “work their butts off” for 21 different bosses/judges.

Other awards:

Service awards: 8 employees with the district for 30 years, 3  for 35 years, 5 for 25 years, 2 for 20 years and 7 for 10 years

Friend of the Court: Harvey DeSotel, Jones County Security Officer

Employee of the Year: Cynthia Forsyth, clerk of court for Benton and Iowa counties

Public Service Award: Della Riggins, retired district court administration

Distinguished Service Award: Kenneth Gard, clerk of court financial supervisor in Linn and Jones counties

California cat burglar=Klepto Kitty

San Mateo, Calif., has had a cat burglar or so they thought. Residents have been missing strange items like bras, towels and teddy bears. The fiend has stolen over 600 items! One of residents set up a night vision camera and captured the culprit – Dusty, the cat!

You have to check out this video clip and the story.

More weird news:

A guy is was acquitted of a convenience store robbery in Pennsylvania thanks to his hair. Yes. His hair.

The man captured in the surveillance video had “mussed locks” and the man on trial, Timothy Corbett, has hair “like Brillo” and when his lawyer tried to “tousle” it during closing arguments, it didn’t move.

This guy was saved because of his hair. It got me thinking about how I curse my curly hair but not that many people have hair like mine – way too thick, curly and unruly – so I’m thinking maybe it will serve me well one day in a case of mistaken identity like Corbett. Not that I’m out breaking laws but neither was poor Corbett 😉

The Linn County Attorney’s Office dismissed attempted burglary charges filed last year on two men because a witness who initially identified the men as suspects decided last week wrong guys.

This is rare that charges are dropped.

The witness, Maxwell Martens, told Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Bessler he was unable to make a positive identification of Eric Baker, 18, and Alexander Gensler, 19, and in fact, he was convinced it wasn’t these men.

Bessler said Martens made a positive identification last year. Martens lived in the house, along with his parents, where the attempted break in took place. Martens told Bessler last week he assumed the men were involved because they were associated with another man involved in the case.

“Both men proclaimed their innocence and they provided other names (of possible suspects), Bessler said. “This doesn’t happen very often but I do appreciate a witness’ candor and honestly.”

Bessler said that’s why he usually talks to witnesses several times to avoid this kind of thing.

“As soon as we find out something like this, we dismiss it quickly,” Bessler said. “We usually dismiss without prejudice (as in this case), so if evidence comes up later we can refile charges.”

It was a good day in court action. There was the weird and predictable.

A Waterloo lawyer was suspended for having sex with a client. I can hear your sighs now. As one attorney put it “It takes all kinds. Wacky!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. There’s quite a story behind the suspension. I wish I could have reached Clovis Bowles today to comment. He apparently talked to a reporter at the Waterloo Courier back when he was first accused of the liaison.

The woman came to Bowles in 2007 to help her retain custody of her kids after being committed for a suicide attempt. She had a history of crack cocaine which prompted Bowles to kiss her and have sex with her. He continued the affair and even married her after she filed a complaint against him.

Bowles told the Courier he was in love and “had his head up his…….”

They divorced after about two months or so but continued the sexual relationship and were finally caught in the law library at the Black Hawk Courthouse. (I would have hated to been that person.) Stranger than fiction 😉

In other court news:

Jacovan Bush, accused of shooting and killing Thomas Horvath in 2008, will be retried for first-degree murder in October. Bush won an appeal last November because the prosecutor presented inadmissible evidence during the first trial.

Denem Null, Johnven Lee and Gabriel Taylor lost their bids to sever their cases in the Kevin Bell murder. Bell was killed in what cops called a botched robbery.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill said there was no grounds to sever the defendants and any issues could be remedied by sanitizing witness testimony, redacting  written statement and limiting jury instructions. Trial remains set for April 4.