Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soldier of Justice Cole Stepping Down

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soldier of Justice Cole Stepping Down

Article excerpt

QUITMAN -- Southern gentility comes so naturally to H. Lamar

Cole it's hard to believe he's put hundreds of criminals behind

bars.

At 61, a grandfatherly figure with a slight stoop in his step,

the veteran prosecutor chooses his words carefully, often

starting sentences with a preface that blunts his anger or

dismay.

"The prosecutor may well be a soldier in the fight for justice,

but he's not a vicious gladiator," Cole said, sipping a diet

Pepsi after study ing files in the Brooks County Court house

last week. "Most prosecutors are after justice, not notches

in their belt."

Nearly a quarter-century after taking the reins as chief

prosecutor for the five-county Southern Judicial Circuit

headquartered in Valdosta, Cole is stepping down. He'll be

replaced January by his hand-picked successor, Assistant

District Attorney David Miller, who is unopposed in the November

general election.

Like many older Georgians, the softspoken Cole has a knack for

the civilized cut-down, his own way of making a point without

shredding someone else's dignity. But he's no courthouse chump.

Valdosta defense attorneys Mike Bennett and Bill Moore

described their longtime adversary as cunning, always in

control. Both likened him to famed TV sleuth Columbo.

"I think Lamar's strength in the courtroom lies in his ability

to cross-examine witnesses very effectively, almost a

Columbo-style cross-examination," Moore said. "You think he's

finished and he comes back with a real piercing question,

something that really hurts your side."

Cole won't talk about his biggest cases. Most involve murders,

he explains, and digging up the details means reopening old

wounds.

Yet if Cole collected scalps, there'd be more than a few on his

wall, none more famous than Georgia trial lawyer Bobby Lee Cook.

Profiled in such books as Shell Game and Midnight in the Garden

of Good and Evil, and perhaps best known for representing

Atlanta child killer Wayne Williams, Cook defended Valdosta

businessman E.K. "Keller" Wilcox Jr., whom Cole sent to prison

for life in 1982 in a decade-old killing. …

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