The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 weeks ago

Is there really ever ‘A Time to Kill?’

(Walt Merrell/Contributed)

Many years ago, as a younger lawyer, I was crossing the street to the courthouse when I met a familiar black woman. We exchanged pleasantries, and she flattered me. “You sure do look like that lawyer on that movie, ‘A Time to Kill.’”

I appreciated the compliment, though I’m not sure how Matthew McConaughey, who played the lawyer in the movie, would feel about the comparison.

And contrary to the movie’s title, I’m also not sure there’s ever a time to kill.


That encounter years ago came to mind recently as I spent most of the day in the courtroom. We had a sentencing hearing on a murder case. I sat in our office hallway – it empties into the courtroom – weighing the importance of what was about to unfold.

Sitting next to me was a precious seven-year-old girl. Children are not allowed in the courtroom because of COVID-19, so she perched there, with a view through the open door. She is a beautiful child – a smile as bright as the North Star, eyes as vivid as any van Gogh canvas, and the sweet disposition of a Disney princess. She reminds me of my youngest daughter – loving, cheerful and compassionate. She melts me.

We talked for a minute about school and how much she loves math. Her bow and barrette swashing atop her head, she sheepishly looked up at me, and then back down to the floor, grinning. We laughed for a few minutes. She was a refreshing distraction from the heaviness of the room.

My thoughts drifted back to the murder case. During the trial, the defendant claimed the killing was justified. He admitted he shot the victim, who was unarmed, but insisted the victim was a threat to him. That it was – a time to kill.

In the movie “A Time to Kill,” Carl Lee Hailey, a black Mississippian, killed two white men in cold blood. Hailey killed them because they beat, raped and hanged his daughter. On the witness stand, Hailey exclaimed, “Yes, I killed ‘em! And I hope they burn in hell!” He thought it was a time to kill.

As I drifted deeper into my thoughts, I felt a gentle, small hand take mine. I turned as she grasped my hand tighter, and tears rolled down her face. Leaning over, I put my arm around her, “Baby, what’s wrong?”

“I miss him. Why did he have to die? I miss him so much and I’m just …” Her voice broke. She turned her eyes to the floor and wiped her tears with her sleeve.

I didn’t have an answer. I struggled for words to tell a seven-year-old how to ease her pain, but I surely wanted to take it all from her. She melted me.

She didn’t think it was a time to kill.

The bailiff gave me a familiar head nod: The judge was coming. I gave my little friend a big hug, and told her I had to go to work, but that I’d be back. She looked up at me, as if she saw hope in what I was about to do. Little did she know, I saw hope in her.

During the hearing, the defendant’s lawyer tried to mitigate the circumstances, suggesting that the victim had faults which contributed to killing and, but for those faults, no death would have occurred. He suggested there was a time to kill.

I responded by reminding the court that Phillip Parker, the defendant, could have called the police; that he could have stayed inside instead of advancing on the victim; that he secreted himself and ambushed the victim. And then, I reminded the judge that my victim’s life mattered.

And it did. And it still does.

He was a father. He was a son. He was a brother. He was a human being. His life had value. His life mattered to that little girl; her flushed cheeks and tears evidenced that.

In the movie, in his closing arguments of the case, Matthew McConaughey asked the jury members to close their eyes. He methodically recounted the gruesome experience that Carl Lee Hailey’s daughter suffered. Finishing with a description of her being tossed off a bridge, McConaughey asked the jurors, “Can you see her? Can you see her laying there, blood-soaked, semen-soaked, urine-soaked … battered and beaten? Can you see her?” Jurors began to cry.

“Now imagine she was white,” he said. Several jurors were visibly shaken by the notion.

My little friend – can you see her? With her beautiful smile and eyes so full of life, her long hair and pretty bows. Can you see her? Her name is Amani – and she is a little black girl.

Did you imagine she was white?

Tekevious Best’s life mattered to his sister Klarissa, a social worker from North Carolina. His life mattered to his other sister, Dacia, a college student. His life mattered to his two children, Hope and Trey. His life mattered to Florala Police Chief Sonny Bedsole and ALEA Agent Chris Inabinett, and Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Irwin.

His life mattered to his little cousin, Amani. His life mattered to me.

It was not a time to kill.

Unlike in the movie, our jury found Parker guilty of murdering Tekevious Best. Our jury agreed: This was not a time to kill. I don’t know what I would do if someone raped my daughter. Perhaps the same thing Carl Lee Hailey did, but it wouldn’t be right. Vengeance is not meant to be ours, says the Lord.

It’s never a time to rape or kill, regardless of skin color.

It’s never a time to kill a man simply because he is black.

It’s never a time to kill a police officer simply because of her job.

It’s never a time to kill someone because he busted out a window.

It was not a time to kill Tekevious Best.

I don’t know if there is ever a time to kill.

I am heartbroken. I work every day to combat the evil of this world, and I don’t care about someone’s skin color. Evil doesn’t have a color. Neither does a victim’s grief.

Recently, I feared evil was winning. It seemed that because of the chaos in the world, no one was willing to listen or to talk. I was reminded of an old expression: “I’m sorry, I can’t hear what you are saying because your actions are too loud.”

But then, Amani took my hand. As tears rolled down her face, she sought comfort from me. She didn’t care what color my skin was. And I didn’t care what color hers was, either. In fact, I couldn’t see the color of her skin. I was too fixated on the hope I saw in her eyes.

Can you see it? Can you see the hope of the next generation? I pray you can, because we all need to pursue it – together.

There is never a time to kill the hope of a child.

Walt Merrell is district attorney for Covington County. You can follow him on Facebook at Walt Merrell, District Attorney (

2 years ago

Instead of belittling student protestors, let us embrace them with our conservative compassion and core beliefs


This week, the reports of students taking to the streets to demand Congress enact gun-control legislation dominated the news. While some people argue about the issues of gun control and others debate the size of the student movement itself, the very real fact is that many young people across Alabama and the nation are forming their political opinions – right now.

Many of the students are scared, and preying on their fear is a special sort of political predator. Those political opportunists have manipulated the young people to suit and push their own agenda.

For instance, this past Saturday, organizer Kenneth Sharpton Glasgow led an anti-gun rally through the streets of downtown Dothan. The following day, Glasgow was booked into the Houston County Jail on charges of capital murder for his involvement in the shooting death of a 23-year- old woman. One can reasonably conclude that Glasgow has disingenuous interest in gun control, and that his rally was motivated by some other political agenda.


I was not there. I do not know what agenda he may have promoted, but I have no doubt that students and parents alike were in attendance and were supportive of his efforts.

In response to last weekend’s student marches, I’ve seen and heard conservatives in the various media platforms utter an all-too-often uniform response: Let’s make fun of or belittle the students for demanding change.

Notice what I said: The students are demanding change, and as well they should. They have every right to be concerned about their own safety, and they should have every expectation that we, as leaders of the free world, will come up with a solution to protect them. Instead of embracing their concerns, though, too many Republicans and conservatives alike are ostracizing the students for their beliefs.

Galatians 6:10 reminds us that “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.”

These students held signs that said catchy, but in my opinion misinformed things, such as “Fight Crime, Defeat the NRA” and “Hey GOP, how did you NAZI [not see] this coming?” Others held signs that said, “I don’t feel safe at my school.”

To the latter, let me say, as a conservative Republican, I am sorry you do not feel safe at school. I hear your concerns and impassioned pleas. They do not fall on deaf ears. Trouble is, those students holding the signs expressing their fear and concern are also reading those signs belittling the NRA and the GOP.

And the loudest conservative response to all of them seems to be: “Suck it up, buttercup.”

What an opportunity we are missing.

No, they may not vote in the next election cycle, but they will one day. This is a great opportunity for conservatives across the nation to embrace the legitimate concerns of students and mentor them, such that they understand that gun control is no more the solution to school shootings as car control would be to DUI-related fatalities.

Instead of alienating them, let us engage them with conversations about adequate school resource officers and let us work to disarm their fears about the inanimate object that is – a gun. Instead of belittling these students, let us embrace them with our conservative compassion and our core beliefs – the belief that all life is valuable and worth protecting; the belief that a Constitutional right to bear arms is no more or less valuable than another’s right to free speech; the belief that all men are created equal and that age does not make us somehow more valuable; and that we truly do love our neighbors.

Younger generations are watching, and right now the conservative response is turning them away from our belief system. For their sake, I hope we change our response so we can educate them on the complexity of the issues and the benefits and necessity of the Second Amendment.

For the nation’s sake, I hope we can engage the youth of today, mentoring them for the benefit of tomorrow.

Walt Merrell is the district attorney for the 22 nd Judicial Circuit (Covington County) of Alabama.