Thursday, December 8, 2011

Did Corruption In Divorce Court Drive One Mother to Plan a Murder?

Kimberly Dawn McGuffie

An Alabama woman has pleaded guilty to federal charges that she conspired to kill her ex husband after losing custody of her children in a divorce case.

Kimberly Dawn McGuffie, 44, of Calera, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire.  She will be sentenced on March 5, and her mother, Barbara Louise Patterson, also has been indicted in the case. The indictment alleges that the two women conspired to poison McGuffie's ex husband after losing custody of the couple's children. The plot unraveled when the hit man they were trying to hire wound up being an informant for authorities.

At one time, I would have read such a story, shrugged my shoulders, and said to myself, "This woman and her mother are bad people, who got caught trying to do a bad thing. They are getting what they deserve."

But now that I've received an 11-year education in the real world of the American justice system--and gotten to know numerous other people who have been victimized in court--I look at the McGuffie story in a different light. I have learned that Alabama domestic-relations courts can be horrifically corrupt, with decisions made not on the facts and the law but on what lawyer is buddies with the judge--or who happens to belong to the same hunting club as the judge.

Because I know that Alabama domestic-relations courts can be a cesspool of the foulest variety, certain questions about the McGuffie case quickly come to mind?

* Did her ex have the financial or political clout to hire the right lawyer who could grease the judge's palm in the specified way?

* Did her lawyer know what was going on and sell out his own client in order to remain in good standing with the legal cartel?

* Were custody issues decided on the facts presented in the case, or did the judge simply play favorites--or worse yet, did he award the children to the highest bidder?

These questions, of course, make me sound like a colossal cynic about our justice system. But as regular readers know, this is not a theoretical exercise for me. Shelby County is the venue where Mrs. Schnauzer and I were on the short end of one bizarre ruling after another--and that experience motivated us to learn about the actual law and share what we had learned with readers in the blogosphere.

Shelby County also is the venue where Sherry Carroll Rollins was the victim of the most grotesque judicial cheat job I've encountered in the civil arena--and that was from a divorce case that had been litigated for three years in South Carolina, meaning Alabama did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson took the case anyway and issued a judgment that was so favorable to Ted Rollins that Sherry Rollins and the couple's two daughters now are on food stamps--even though Mr. Rollins owns multiple private jet craft, is the CEO of a company with a $380-million Wall Street IPO, and belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families.

I no longer assume that someone like Kimberly Dawn McGuffie is a bad person who was destined to do a bad thing. I know, from first-hand experience, the back-breaking stress that comes with being on the receiving end of a judicial cheat job. And I can imagine that such stress becomes heightened when children and broken homes are involved.

Let's not forget the case of Blake Lazenby, the Talladega lawyer who was gunned down in his home back in August. A source tells Legal Schnauzer that Lazenby was shot four times in his dining room, while still wearing his business suit. "That was an execution," our source says.

Why did someone want to do Blake Lazenby harm? The answer to that question is unclear, and Talladega County officials have said virtually nothing about their investigation. But this much is clear: Lazenby was in the midst of a divorce, and judges and lawyers were playing a wicked game of hardball with his wife. Lazenby's lawyers had gone so far as to issue subpoenas for records that appeared to have nothing to do with the case--and might have caused third parties significant angst.

Did that angst drive someone to commit murder? My guess is that it did, and I also think something funky is going on with the "investigation." Lazenby was shot in his home, his car was found on fire in the Birmingham suburb of Tarrant, he was involved in a nasty divorce case, and had at least one other high-profile case on his docket. There should be plenty of evidence to solve this crime, but we've heard not a peep from law-enforcement officials.

My prediction is that the case never will be solved, and no one ever will be arrested. Why do I think that? Because the defendant will be able to point to grotesque legal corruption as the driving force behind the murder--and the lawyer tribe does not want anything to do with that.

The Lazenby case hardly is the only instance of a court case leading to violence. A divorce case recently led to gunfire and death in Van Buren, Arkansas.

With what I know about the Rollins v. Rollins case, quite a few people probably are lucky that Sherry Carroll Rollins tends to be a peaceful person. Otherwise, I can think of several folks who might need to have metal dislodged from their craniums.

And here's a thought I've had several times as I've watched people repeatedly cheat Mrs. Schnauzer and me--and that includes cheating both of us out of our jobs:

"We live in a gun-saturated society. Even the most liberal, anti-gun people can easily obtain a gun if they are pushed to the point that they feel the need for one. What makes cheaters think we--and others like us--won't someday snap? What makes them think, when we have nothing left to lose, that we won't come looking for them--with hardware in tow."

I've tried real hard for 55 years to treat other people the way I would like to be treated. Christians call that The Golden Rule, and while I'm sure I haven't applied it perfectly, evidence suggests my record is pretty strong on that front. Mrs. Schnauzer enjoys a similar record. It's not that we are, or want to be, candidates for sainthood. It's largely a matter of self preservation.

"You know," I've told the missus on more than one occasion, "I don't think I could do the stuff that others have done to us because I'd be concerned that someone would come after me with a gun. And Lord knows, it's easy to find a gun around here. Heck, I wouldn't want to live every day with the thought that someone might blow my ass away at any moment--and have good reason for doing it."

Quite a few of my fellow citizens apparently don't have such thoughts. And The Golden Rule seems to have gone out of fashion.

In the end, I'm not so quick to judge people like Kimberly Dawn McGuffie these days. One citizen, in a letter to the Shelby County Reporter, said McGuffie had been the victim of domestic abuse. If she was hurt in her home, and then wronged so often and so severely in court that she finally snapped and started looking for revenge . . . well, I can understand it.

As long as we allow a "wild, wild west" approach to prevail in our courtrooms, we will continue to read about people who finally try to take matters into their own hands.


Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the lady.
No one knows what goes on behind closed doors..

I hope the judge is not too harsh with her. I would give her probation!

legalschnauzer said...

A source tells me that details about the case have been removed from AlaCourt. Wonder why that would be.

Anonymous said...


jeffrey spruill said...

Mr. Schnauzer:

Do you have to log in to go to AlaCourt?

legalschnauzer said...


I think you do have to have an account, and log in, to access AlaCourt. I'm not sure if access is limited to lawyers and such. I've only seen it on public computers at courthouses. A lawyer friend told me that, as of this morning, the McGuffie divorce case did not appear on AlaCourt. Is that a temporary glitch or is someone screwing around with public records in an effort to hide something? I don't know, but it would be very interesting to know who the judge and the lawyers were in the case. I'm guessing that Ms. McGuffie was placed under enormous pressure to plead guilty so that there would not be a public trial on this matter.

Anonymous said...

Go to the polls. Vote out all incumbent judges. Quit giving them a free reign.

jeffrey spruill said...

Mr. Schnauzer:

I simply could not resist.

Another one bites the dust!

James Greek said...

I know I should ave posted on ths about a ago, but my mom stabbed her drunken boyfriend because he was being abusive to her ten years ago. It led to a lengthy and often heated batte in court costing her and Georgia taxpayers a lot of money. The law sided with him because he was the victim. Anyone who abuses a woman or a child deserves to be hurt these. Bth physically and emotionally. we need someone to stand up for justice but we also need to et the truth be known.