I was honored to have the opportunity to paint Judge Michael E. Hancock’s portrait. His painting will hang in the DeKalb County Courthouse in Decatur, Georgia where he served for over 30 years. He began his career as an investigator with the DeKalb Juvenile Court. He left there to attend Emory Law School. After graduating he served in the Peace Corps for a year as a way of paying it forward. In 1979 Judge Hancock became DeKalb County’s first African-American Public Defender, and in 1991 Governor Zell Miller appointed him to the DeKalb Superior Court bench.
Judge Hancock was surrounded by family, friends and colleagues as his portrait was unveiled in the Senior Judges Courtroom where the painting will hang in honor of his many years of service. All those who spoke at the ceremony talked about his strength and wisdom which guided him in his decision making process. Many talked about how he had been a mentor and example to them in life – often because of the way he had challenged them.
Judge Hancock concluded his speech talking about his career quoting from Ecclesiastes, “ ‘All this is vanity. It is a vapor.’ The biggest reward to me will be when I cross over to the other side.” He has left behind a legacy of integrity for those following in his footsteps.
Honorable Michael E. Hancock certainly is one of the fairest human beings and was an absolutely fair jurists, and I testify to it from my first hand personal knowledge.
In 1997, a jury convicted me of armed robbery in Judge Hancock’s courtroom. As taking a jury trial essentially means the defendant does not admit to the crime charged and therefore does not accept the responsibilities of his alleged actions, due to conviction by jury, he could have sentenced me up to life imprisonment under Georgia law. But he didn’t. He sentenced me to the least possible (statutory minimum 10 years). During sentencing phase, he stated that he carefully observed the fact of the crime as reflected by the evidence, that the fact of crime didn’t warrant even 10 years imprisonment but he had to sentence me to 10 years imprisonment because that was the least the law permitted, and that he would sentence me much less than that if it were within his leeway.
I cannot imagine a more impartial and fairer jurist than him.
My best wishes for Honorable Hancock.