Elizabethtown’s vision of itself as a calm, safe city was shattered Feb. 21 when a series of shots interrupted the darkness.
Cherie Turner, 34, was killed that night on West Warfield Street near her home.
Soon after, more gunfire occurred at the convenience store at 600 N. Miles St. The store’s owner, 40-year-old Subash Ghale, was killed.
Another store employee Prayash Baniya was struck and Nadia Browne, a customer in the parking lot, was struck in the leg by a bullet but managed to drive to safety at a nearby park where she alerted police.
Shadrach Peeler was at the center of this violence, police say. A convicted felon, he soon was charged with two counts of murder and numerous other charges. Court documents indicate the store’s cameras recorded Peeler in the act.
Peeler, 35, remains in the Hardin County Detention Center under a $2 million bond.
The Commonwealth is seeking the death penalty.
On the last day of April, he was transported to Hardin Circuit Court for a hearing related to the charges. With 20 to 50 years of freedom and possibly his life on the line, Peeler interrupted the proceedings.
As attorneys discussed a request to admit Peeler to the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center for an evaluation, he asked if he could “go against it” and change his plea to guilty.
Peeler said he wanted to and to “stand up for what I did just to get it over with.”
That’s a startling statement. It could have ended the proceedings. Some people on social media – apparently more interested in vengeance than justice – immediately shouted for swift action. The suggestions included a Wild West sort of solution akin to public lynching.
Fortunately, those people were trolling the internet and not behind the bench.
Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton exercised restraint and wisdom instead.
He calmly advised Peeler to consult with his court-appointed counsel.
“Just talk to your attorney about it, OK, Mr. Peeler?” Easton before the defendant exited.
The criminal justice system is at the core of our civilization. It’s about truth, fairness and objectivity. A basic principle of the criminal justice process is the accused is considered innocent until and unless proven guilty.
That’s a concept which opinionated and fearful people often forget when encouraging a rush to justice and immediate implementation of harsh penalties.
For their sakes, if a criminal allegation is ever filed against them, hopefully, a reasonable jurist such as Judge Easton will be on the bench to see their rights are protected too.
Peeler will be back in court soon enough. He will encounter justice and it’s not likely to be pleasant.
It certainly will be delivered with far more mercy than Cherie Turner, Subash Ghale or the other victims of the Feb. 21 shooting spree experienced.
Fair, measured justice: That’s what our society is based upon and what calm, safe and sane cities expect.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.