| Summer 2016
By Judge Larry Gist, Senior Judge
obody who has been in any type of business or profession for any length
of time hasn’t run into some “characters”. I am certainly no exception, and
after working in the criminal justice system for 50 years, there were
some unforgettable people to cross my path.
So I thought I might take a moment and reminisce about some of the of-
fenders I’ve dealt with over the years. Unfortunately, in so many cases,
their lights were on but nobody was home.
Let’s start with Little Joe.When I first became an Assistant Dis-
trict Attorney, I was assigned like most new prosecutors to work
in Justice of the Peace Courts. That’s where I first met Little
I was a young prosecutor and he was a young thief. I pros-
ecuted him several times for Class C misdemeanors. Then I
got promoted to County Court at Law cases and sure enough, here came Little Joe, now
stealing in Class A & B amounts.
As my career advanced, I was assigned to felony court. Who do I see there but Little Joe,
now committing Third Degree crimes. I later became the Chief of the Trial Division and Little
Joe moved up to Second Degree offenses. And as
a newly elected judge, I got to sentence Little Joe
to life in prison under the then mandatory habitual
Our careers paralleled each other. As I went up
a notch, so did Little Joe.
And then there was Frank. I was prosecuting mis-
demeanor offenses when I first ran into him.Way
back then our jail was on the top of the courthouse
building.The sheriff didn’t have funds to hire profes-
sional cooks for the jail kitchen, so inmates had to
handle all of the food preparation. And an inmate who knew how to
cook was very valuable.
Frank was a seaman and cooked on ships when he wasn’t in jail. And
he had been in almost every jail and prison in the country at one time or