vided transcripts of interviews by law enforcement officials with dozens of people who had knowledge of the offender, his family, the victims, and the school.
While the detail and diversity of this record are notable, it is also true that the largest share of the record, at least in terms of bulk, was obtained from law enforcement sources. While we are fortunate to have this information and personally beholden to the individuals who facilitated this access, we are also aware of the potential pitfalls of relying too extensively on law enforcement sources.
Despite overtures to T.J. Solomon, his family, their attorneys, and the Georgia Department of Corrections, we were unable to interview any of them directly. The only response to any of these requests came from a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, who replied that our request had received serious consideration but could not be granted at the time because of concern over the mental health of T.J. Solomon, who had attempted suicide in prison in December 2000, six months prior to the data collection period.
Despite possible concern about the extensive reliance on law enforcement sources, it turns out that there is very little disagreement across multiple sources of information, either within the law enforcement data archives or between them and our many other data sources, about the basic facts of the case. The main disputes in the adversarial process that pitted the interests of the offender against those of criminal justice officials had to do with the assessment of T.J. Solomon’s mental health. Even in this matter, the facts bearing on that assessment were little disputed, only their interpretation, and the opposing interpretations are well documented.
Extensive psychological assessments were conducted by highly qualified examiners working separately for the district attorney, the juvenile and superior courts, and T.J. Solomon. His family was able to secure prominent legal counsel and reputable psychological consultation. The contending interpretations of his psychological condition, as presented by prosecutors and defense lawyers and decided on by the juvenile court and superior court judges, are matters of public record, available in the transcripts of the transfer hearing from juvenile to superior court and the sentencing hearing in superior court. We turn now to descriptions of the community, the school, the offender and his family, the incident, and the aftermath.
Rockdale County lies just southwest of Atlanta, bisected by Interstate Highway 20 and State Highway 138. The opening of Interstate 20 in 1963