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Warren County child cruelty case puts district attorney in national spotlight

The Lottie Payne case brought much media attention to Warrenton and surrounding areas over the past year.

On Oct. 5, a Warren County jury found Ms. Payne guilty of two counts of cruelty to children in the second degree in connection with the April 2005 drowning deaths of her two children.

Since the hype surrounding the trial and subsequent airing of the taped proceedings on Court TV last week, one Thomson man has reluctantly found himself in the spotlight.

"I hadn't watched (the trial)," said Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders. "I don't know why exactly. It was taped for me, but I guess I'm afraid that I'll look bad. I wanted to come across as professional."

Mr. Sanders appeared on ABC's Good Morning America and Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren during the trial and on Headline News' Nancy Grace during the airing of the trial.

Those appearances led some people in the television industry to take notice of Mr. Sanders. Court TV wants to televise another one of his trials, and he has since accepted an invitation to appear and speak as a legal expert on the Atlanta-based Cable News Network.

"I've never done that. I thought it might be fun and a new experience," Mr. Sanders said.

Prior to his appearance on Nancy Grace, Mr. Sanders remembered some connections with the host. Ms. Grace worked with Assistant District Attorney Bill Doupe - who also appeared on the show - in Fulton County. She also graduated from Mercer Law School, the same school from which Mr. Sanders graduated.

"I was hopeful that she wouldn't try to give me a bad time because she does some of her folks," Mr. Sanders said. "But she was very cordial to both Bill and myself and seemed to actually be in agreement with the position we took."

Mr. Sanders also said he tried to use the "radio voice" that he uses while giving play-by-play for WTHO broadcasts of Thomson High School football games. He said that cuts down on the southern accent which has a negative connotation in other parts of the country.

That wasn't the problem while the trial was being taped, he said. The camera movement was distracting even though he thought it wouldn't be. But there could be one personal positive to come from the trial coverage, Mr. Sanders said.

"It's a great learning tool to watch yourself," he said. "Every attorney can get better and better and better, and you have to have honest critique. I need to sit down and watch me and critique myself and say 'That was not good.'"

Web posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006

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