I am pretty sure my high school English teacher was at least fifty years of age when she was born. For the rest of us a period of childhood was mandatory. We all experienced night sweats over appearing in public partially clothed or forgetting to complete our homework. It may appear there are perfect teenagers who have clear skin and clear consciences. However, no one escapes the excruciating agony of youth’s bad fortune and bad judgment. That is why societies have always made special arrangements for childhood indiscretions. And that is why Posey County has Juvenile Probation Officer Shawnna Rigsby.
Shawnna stands as a five-foot tall Colossus of Rhodes between the Scylla of juvenile detention and the Charybdis of adult prison. She is our legal system’s cartilage between the adult world of responsibility and our acknowledgement that those under eighteen are as green in their brains as they are in their bones.
Of course, youngsters can cause great harm to others or themselves if their behavior is not monitored and modified. Society must protect itself even while recognizing the need to apply different standards to those who life has not yet seasoned. These two equally important goals are Shawnna’s mandates.
For fourteen years as a member of the Posey Circuit Court staff Shawnna has received countless late night calls from police officers, mental health workers, caseworkers with the Department of Family and Children, school officials and the public requiring her to drop whatever she was doing, sleeping for example, and deal with emergency situations such as fights, drugs, run-a-ways and bad parents whenever children needed care and shelter.
Indiana law does not allow children, in most cases, to be placed in jail. There are a few cases, serious crimes such as murder or rape for example, where a person less than eighteen can be housed with adults. These are extremely rare incidences in our small county and require the judge’s approval. Usually, Shawnna must seek safe and proper housing for children other than jail.
Shawnna has valid credentials for her job and proof that she knows how to rear children. She and her husband Heath have a daughter, Lexie, who is currently practicing law and a son, Cameron, who is attending classes at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Shawnna helps Heath who is the General Manger and Golf Professional at Mt. Vernon’s Western Hills Country Club. Together Shawnna and Heath help families throughout our county.
As Shawnna puts it:
“I basically have one job: Keeping the youth of Posey County out of the Department of Corrections. And we do everything within our means to do that. We help. We rehabilitate. We tell them life doesn’t have to be this hard; that they have the ability to change anytime they choose. We help make things better. But it isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. Some children require a bit more convincing that it’s always best to do the right thing. And we can do that too.”
Gentle Reader, you and I remember what Shawnna experiences every day:
“And sometimes it means putting them on house arrest or in secure detention to help them understand that society will not tolerate violent criminal behavior. But mostly, we remember that the juvenile brain is not like an adult brain. And juveniles are forever making dumb decisions. Really, really stupid decisions. And we try to keep those dumb decisions at a minimum until they are about 25 and their brains are finally done. And we live for the days when they walk into the office and say ‘Whoa! I was an idiot! Thank you.’ And again, I think, ‘Man, I love this job.’”
Finally, most people walk out of Shawnna’s office with the words, “I hope I never see you again!” and she always heartily agrees!
That’s what we at the Posey Circuit Court call our Chief Probation Officer, Rodney Fetcher. Rodney started with the court in October 1988. Rodney is the true and perfect Factotum. He can do and is willing to do any needed task at the court. His official duties are to oversee our Posey County Probation Department with its total of six probation officers who counsel probationers, prepare pre-sentencing reports for the judges and administer drug-tests. Rodney is also responsible for administering the intra and interstate probationer transfer functions for Posey County. In the real world of small, rural courts Rodney prepares budgets and reports, he installs and fixes court computers and video and audio technology. He makes movies and moves furniture. He rearranges offices and helps with juries. The list is endless. Suffice it to say the courts of Posey County would not function nearly as well if Rodney did not function as well as he does.
In his role as Chief Probation Officer Rodney’s main duty is to supervises those who supervise people placed on probation by Posey County’s judges. But Rodney does have a life beyond the courts. He has one son and two grandchildren. He has been a sports official for thirty-four years. From tee ball to semi-professional football Rodney serves as a referee and umpire for the sports of football, baseball, basketball and softball. Just last month he umpired the National Softball Association’s Girls Class B World Series which was held in Evansville, Indiana. Rodney also serves as a member of the Posey County Correction Board and was the Director of the Posey County Group Home for Boys for many years.
Rodney is one of those unusual people who remembers virtually every probationer he has ever supervised. He calls them by their first names and takes a real interest in their success. From restitution to drug testing to work crews, from counseling to back-sliding, Rodney’s unique character aids Posey County’s citizens who have fallen short to get back on their feet. Of course, he and his fellow probation officers do not save everyone. However, in our small county everyone they do save makes a significant improvement in the lives of the probationers and their victims while our whole county is safer and happier due to Rodney and his department’s efforts.
Just kidding; you can’t. However, if one should be so inclined as to try, the starting point would be Posey Circuit Court Bailiff and Posey Circuit and Superior Courts Jury Administrator Linda Fetcher. Linda just started her new position in June 2016. She took over from Dr. John Emhuff who served in both roles, summa cum laude, for fifteen years. Dr. John will be a tough act to follow. Linda has hit the ground running.
Linda and Gene Fetcher have been married fifty-four years and have three children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. So, potential jury service evader, do not attempt some “the dog ate my homework” excuse. Linda has heard them all.
While Linda may live in Wadesville, Indiana where the gas pumps outnumber the residents. Do not assume she is not worldly. Linda has traveled to twenty foreign countries, several of them more than once, due to her involvement with Academic Year in America. Through this foreign student exchange program Linda has hosted more than thirty young people from numerous countries who lived with Linda and Gene during an academic year. Linda also has heard excuses in several languages. She has also gained valuable experience while serving as a volunteer board member of the Posey County Council on Aging.
Jurors in Posey County’s two courts are selected randomly via a computer program from Posey County residents who are at least eighteen years old. The lists are compiled automatically from the rolls of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Indiana Department of Revenue.
From a general “venire” composed of these two groups Linda sends out 500 notices each month. Posey County has about seventeen thousand potential jurors and jury trials are not a common way to resolve legal matters. You can see that an opportunity to assist in the administration of justice is a rare thing, relax.
In Posey County these rare events usually last about two days. Posey County has not had a jury trial last more than two weeks in the thirty-five years I have been judge. Also, Indiana law allows a potential juror to defer her/his service for a year upon a simple written request which Linda brings to the judge’s attention.
Should you be so fortunate as to receive a greeting from Linda I think you should see it as an opportunity for an interesting and rewarding experience. If not, Linda can see that for at least a year the excitement is delayed. And by the way, if you are called to serve and do so Indiana law gives one a two-year exemption from future jury service.
Katrina S. Mann has served Posey County for forty years. She has worked in the County Assessor’s office, the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, County Court and Circuit Court. She has been a bailiff, probation officer, transcriptionist and court reporter.
Katrina has experience in every aspect of all court reporting functions. Currently she is the resident expert in criminal proceedings, guardianships and probate (estate) matters. Litigants and even attorneys rely upon Katrina for help with complicated questions that ofttimes nobody else seems to know how to answer. Judges also sometimes look to Katrina for help in dealing with the briar patch of arcane legal jargon and convoluted regulations. I know one judge quite well who turns to her frequently and has for forty years.
Katrina grew up in West Franklin in what once was rural Posey County. Society has unrelentingly encroached upon Katrina’s bucolic bliss. Today the once small settlement of West Franklin looks more like the west side of Evansville. Regardless, Katrina and her family continue to enjoy the home they have had since before the power plant started operations.
It is not possible to overstate the critical role Katrina has played in the Posey Circuit Court during my service on the Bench. She is a person of absolute integrity, reliability, discretion and sound judgment. She has always put the needs of the Court and the people we serve above her own. This has been good for the public but sometimes not for Katrina.
Katrina is a graduate of Mt. Vernon High School and has attended the University of Southern Indiana. Through hard work on her own time she has acquired numerous skills in the use of modern court technology such as Sten-O-Cat Court Reporting that is required in Indiana for death penalty cases.
Katrina is quiet, patient and friendly. Should one need help with a criminal, or probate or guardianship matter they should first consult their lawyer. However, if you want to know where the Judge goes for help, check with Katrina.
Kristie Hoffman claims to have worked for the Posey Circuit Court and me for thirty years. She says she started in June 1986 as a Bailiff and transcriptionist then matriculated through most of the court reporter positions. Today, if one needs help with civil suits, adoptions, mental health cases or juvenile delinquency matters, they should call for Kristie. As for me, I find it hard to accept Kristie has accumulated thirty years of knowledge and expertise in numerous court matters when she herself has not gotten a year older. It is only when I compare my photographs from 1986 to my image in the mirror that I am able to accept that Kristie did not just arrive from St. Philip, Indiana not knowing where the courthouse was.
Of course, the fact that she and Andy have been married for twenty-eight years (I went to their wedding) and have two adult sons does militate in favor of the falling sands of time. Although Andy also looks like he just graduated from high school. Perhaps Kristie should pay Posey County for the privilege of working in a position which apparently affects her as would have Ponce de Leon’s frantically sought after Fountain of Youth. I have noticed however she and Andy tend to look more like normally aging people when Notre Dame loses.
Ah, well, the rest of us can take consolation from the knowledge that Kristie will never experience the joys of aging. Is not there much to be said for the character building vicissitudes of changing visages and aching limbs? Okay, I guess not. Still, what will Kristie do if she ever does get old? The shock may be too much for her. As the rest of us gradually become habituated to the inevitable we can take solace that the Kristies of the world may go to sleep some day and awake eight hours later with some stranger living in their skin. On the other hand so may we, it will just be a much older looking stranger.
Okay, enough grousing about the unfairness of it all. What else does the public need to know about Kristie? One important distinction between Kristie and the rest of the court staff is she gets to work at 7:00 a.m. Therefore, if you need to contact the court before normal hours you can call 812-838-1302 and select option 3. Kristie will answer and efficiently direct you to the proper department of the legal system to address your questions. Of course, the court staff is prohibited by Indiana law from giving legal advice. However, Kristie and her three fellow court reporters are quite knowledgeable and helpful when general legal system guidance is needed.
All four Posey Circuit Court court reporters work at the north end of the second floor of the courthouse. Their doors are always open to the public. Sometimes they are involved in matters the law requires be kept confidential. In those cases the public is excluded. Otherwise feel free to call or drop by. The courts are always “open pursuant to adjournment” as the Indiana Constitution requires.
Dad would give my brother Philip and me 25¢ each on Saturday morning. This was money well invested. It got us out of the house so Mom and our older sister Janie and brother Sonny could clean it. Plus, for only 50¢ Mom and Dad could concentrate on chores we kids were not trusted with, such things as paying the weekly bills and preparing for Sunday’s church related duties.
Phil and I would walk the two miles to the picture show which opened at 9:30 am. 10¢ of our quarter would purchase a black and white double feature of black hat/white hat cowboy movies that started with a serial starring Rocket Man or some wobbly paper mache dinosaurs.
Popcorn was 5¢, a pop was 5¢ and a candy bar one could actually make breakfast of was 5¢. The floor was cement and sticky. There was only one exit. And the sounds from 50 screaming kids made the bare brick walls quiver.
You might think because I grew up on the Osage Indian Reservation my friends and I would root for the Indians. Nope, you see while many of the kids were Indians many of them also lived on cattle ranches. Everybody cheered for Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Lash LaRue, Jimmy Wakely and especially the Durango Kid.
Although we kids on the main floor did not see or mix with the Colored kids in the balcony, we could occasionally hear an approving murmur from above when an Indian won a skirmish. We paid no attention.
Life was good on Saturday mornings in Pawhuska, Oklahoma for my brother and me in the 1950’s. Movies for a quarter assuaged all worries, even shoe soles that stuck to the floor.
I recalled those halcyon days last weekend when Peg and I went to a movie in Evansville, Indiana. Although I truly am a romantic guy I had not taken Peg to the theatre since Rocky lost to Apollo Creed. We were both amazed at the changes.
Peg had ordered our tickets online so I could not find some (any) reason to be somewhere (anywhere) else. Can you believe people do not even use the monetary system that has served us well since the Phoenicians were trading around the Mediterranean? Peg did not tell me what the tickets cost before we went and I assumed it was an act of wifely love when Peg said she’d get the popcorn and Cokes. She told me to find which of the ten or so screens our movie was playing on.
When Peg came up with our refreshments we entered our venue and found a carpeted floor with woven directions to our row and assigned seats. We sat down on and were enveloped in deep, plush recliners with electric controls. Some other customers were already reclining so far back their only view was their toes. I heard a couple of people snoring.
The movie was of the action genre. In fact, the plot appeared to be one long car chase broken up by intermittent motorcycle crashes. After two hours of deafening destruction, mercy arrived with the credits. However, as we were struggling to rise from the den furniture, Peg told me we had to stop by the theatre’s office before we left.
When we got to the office I casually referred to the cost of my childhood movies. The manager smiled condescendingly and pushed a legal size document toward us which had a listing of the cost of our tickets and refreshments. I thought it unusual that it asked for our Social Security numbers, birthdates and employment history. Then I saw the caption: Credit Application.
(Thanks to Cindy & Jeff Smotherman for the use of their photograph of the new theatre seats.)