Drug court judge focused on saving lives, not just punishment
Video shows Liana Hibbard fidgeting and playing with her hair in courtroom video earlier this month, and District Court Judge Stephanie Burke knew something wasn't right.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Video shows Liana Hibbard fidgeting and playing with her hair in courtroom video earlier this month, and District Court Judge Stephanie Burke knew something wasn't right.
"Oh, good Lord. Yeah, she is very high," Burke said in the courtroom video.
Hibbard was in court on drug charges.
"There have been a number of cases where people in the audience or crowd appeared significantly impaired," Burke said Monday.
In this case, it was the fidgeting, crying and talking that got the judge's attention.
After being brought before the judge, Hibbard said, "I've been trying to do positive things in my life, OK?"
But Hibbard's actions and answers caused more concern.
"I am very concerned about your safety and your well being," Burke said in the video
"I have a lack of sleep, your honor," Hibbard responded.
"Right now, I am finding you to be in contempt of court for being disruptive in the courtroom," Burke told Hibbard.
Hibbard was eventually arrested. According to court documents, deputies searched her purse and found two needles and a substance believed to be crystal meth.
"She was very physically impaired at the moment," Burke said. "Being angry with her was not going to help what was going on with her in the moment."
Burke also said, at this point, it's about life and death.
"In here, the biggest significance is keeping them alive, not just keeping them out of jail," she said. "The conversations I have with the people I'm working with in my drug court and in here - are always focused on ... I want you to live."
In fact, since January, Burke knows more than two dozen people who have died from an overdose.
"Since the beginning of the year? Probably 30," she said. "Just three in the last week; six in the last two weeks."
Burke said drug use is not the only problem or the only way people are dying from drugs.
"Last week, we lost a young man who we had been working with in the past," she said. "He was murdered. It's really hard. He was 23-years-old."
And that's an outcome Burke is desperately trying to avoid in this case and for anyone else who shows up in her court.
"It isn't that I want you to stop breaking the law," she said. "We're way past that."
But she knows it is not easy.
"Just because somebody wants to stop ... doesn't mean that they have the tools to do it," she said.
Burke said there are lots of local program and organizations to help people who are addicted to drugs, including The Healing Place, one of the best resources for people who want help.
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