Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe, Walker County Coroner J.C. Poe and Walker County Jail Administrator Trent McCluskey spoke to the students about various issues they may face in dealing with crimes, victims and offenders.
Rowe explained the escalation of domestic violence situations and relationships, comparing it to a ladder — with the first rung being verbal abuse, then moving up to higher levels of control and abuse.
She talked to the students about how manipulative and convincing domestic violence offenders can be. She called them “experts in psychology” who learn their victim’s weaknesses and exploit them to exert control over them.
She used the example of Karen Lane, a Cordova woman who was in a short-term relationship with Gregory Hunt. She was beaten to death in an apartment. Other women later testified they had suffered abuse at Hunt’s hands when they were dating him years earlier. Hunt is currently on death row in Holman prison.
Rowe also talked about things that the nurses could tell victims to encourage them to get help, including pleading with them to protect themselves and their children, telling them they deserve better and that it’s a crime. She also lauded local resources like Daybreak that assists victims with getting out of unsafe situations.
Poe discussed the importance of collecting and protecting evidence.
He also touched on the Lane case, saying investigators found Hunt’s hand prints in Lane’s blood in the house and on Lane’s body.
That evidence helped convict Hunt.
He advised the future nurses on how to preserve evidence if a victim is brought in to the hospital or clinic where they are working. He talked about preserving physical evidence on clothes and victims, as well as maintaining the chain of custody so any recovered evidence can be used in court.
One of the students asked Poe what the worst case he had ever worked and he responded that the unsolved cases were the ones that really haunted him, referencing the bombing at the old People’s Hospital in 1980.
McCluskey talked about dealing with psychopaths, saying there was no definitive way to know a psychopath, but warning signs are usually present, such as antisocial behavior.
He also discussed the importance of having an objective, professional standard of judgement, referencing examples in his field but emphasizing that objective standards are important in any field.
He said his heart breaks for the victims who suffer these crimes, but he still has to maintain the level of care for the offenders that they are afforded by law, saying societies that have ignored those rights have been run by men like Hitler.
“We’re still held and bound to a constitutional standard of care,” McCluskey said. “We’ve got to make sure that we don’t become Nazi Germany. We’ve got to make sure that you are measured by an objective standard in your career.”