Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waldon Courtroom Piques Curiosity; Ex-Cop's Trial Engages Even Casual Passers-By

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waldon Courtroom Piques Curiosity; Ex-Cop's Trial Engages Even Casual Passers-By

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler, Times-Union staff writer

The grieving sit on one side, the disbelievers on the other. And sprinkled all around are the just plain curious.

It's the most chilling show in town, taking place in a musty courtroom on the fourth floor of 311 W. Monroe St.

The trial for ex-Jacksonville cop Karl Waldon enters its eighth day today in the federal courthouse with plans by the defense to rest sometime tomorrow. Waldon is charged in the 1998 slaying of Sami Safar and a series of other crimes.

The courtroom's 10 benches, which comfortably seat six people each, often are at or near capacity.

Appearing daily are Safar's family and friends. They include two brothers, both having wept and one who cursed when a witness described the slaying. That group sits to the left, on the prosecution side.

Behind the defense are Waldon's parents and a cocoon of their supporters, including friends and clergy. The couple smile at their son when they see him. Their eyes fix on some witnesses and turn away from others they know.

Attorneys and a few local reporters are among other regulars. Some cops have stopped in, but neither Sheriff Nat Glover nor other high-ranking police officials have shown up.

The public comes and goes, with a few taking regular seats while others just pass through.

Warren Folks, a self-proclaimed preacher once known as a prominent segregationist, has attended almost every day dressed in a camouflage hat and fatigues. Folks said he's reserved judgment on Waldon and wants to observe whether he is getting a fair trial.

"I've been interested in it for some time," Folks, 82, said of the case. "Naturally, I want to see justice done. If there's anything I despise, it's a crooked policeman or a crooked judge. If he's guilty, he ought to pay the price."

Then there's Dick Braendle, the omnipresent volunteer court watcher for the Justice Coalition victims' rights group. It's Braendle's first trip to federal court after having spent most of his days watching trials at the county courthouse.

"I've really been impressed with the proceedings," said Braendle, 79. "There's much more efficiency than in state court. …

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