Bartley case reopening old wounds

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By Susan Sharp

  Last week Judge Jon K. Blackwood reversed himself in the Kenneth S. Bartley case and allowed the young man’s guilty plea to be set aside.

It was surprising to say the least.

Yes there are numerous legal issues still to be argued. And that have already been argued.

While all of that makes for interesting armchair quarter backing there is something that can’t be ignored. At the epicenter of this drama are four families. Four families that have been hurt and are now bracing themselves to revisit the day that nearly destroyed all of them.

For Jo Bruce, the widow of slain Campbell County High School Principal Ken Bruce, she will again sit in a courtroom looking at the young man who took her partner, her best friend and the father of her children.

Former CCHS Principals Gary Seale and Jim Pierce will more than likely take the witness stand and recount their versions of what happened in that office.

And Kenneth S. Bartley will be there. He will finally have his day in court.

In the last week I have heard many people say this case should have “gone away” by now.

Maybe it should have. But maybe not.

If a true miscarriage of justice occurred and a 15-year-old boy felt pressured to make a decision, without parental input, that had lifelong ramifications then Blackwood was right in setting the plea aside.

And no one can blame Bartley’s parents for continuing to fight for their child. Right or wrong I would dare say very few of us would abandon our children in this situation.

In taking the gun to school in November 2005, Bartley took his first step in altering the course of his life. That decision put the young man on track to also change the lives of three other families.

But if Blackwood had allowed a faulty plea to stand would justice have really been served?