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Butterfly release honors those victimized by violent crimes
District Attorney Lee Darragh specially honored for 25th year prosecuting
Eric Swanburg accompanies Kyleigh Wright on Friday as the two sing “Stand Back Up” by Sugarland during a victim’s right observance program on the Gainesville square. The program also included a butterfly release in honor victims of violence. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Some butterflies lifted right into the air from cradled palms. Some wings took a bit longer to flutter.

In time, each one rose from the paper envelopes confining them, offering the dozens who gathered Friday at the downtown square their own views of freedom.

"It's cathartic for people who have suffered," said Abigail Cutchshaw. "And it's awareness for people who have never been in this situation."

The Hall County Solicitor's Office and the District Attorney's Office observed Victims' Rights week with the symbolic release of butterflies. The annual event focuses on victims, their loss and the promise of new beginnings, raised with the support of legal advocates.

Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard led the solemn ceremony, which was brief but poignant.

"One of the things people don't realize is that defendants' rights were established when our system was founded. But a victim's rights were not a given," Woodard said.

Only within the last 25 years have legal rights been granted to this group, with recent legislation being passed in Georgia to allow victims the chance to be in the courtroom at all times during a trial, she said.

As part of the gathering, Woodard praised prosecutors, staff, victim-witness liaisons, law enforcement officers and the other agencies.

Honored specially was District Attorney Lee Darragh, who is marking his 25th year prosecuting people charged with felony crimes in Hall County.

Woodard presented examples of Darragh in the courtroom, where he once negotiated a witness whose split personalities changed on the stand. In another case, Darragh handed his eyeglasses to a little girl who thought twice about looking at her accuser and calling him out.

"For someone who has been doing this for 25 years, here is a man who does not grow weary," Woodard said, as she delivered a small statue of an eagle inscribed to "a true warrior for victims."

Cutchshaw concluded the event with a passage she wrote to connect the imagery of a butterfly and a person coping in the wake of a crime.

Once a battered wife, and author of "Finding Hope: The Journey of a Battered Wife," Cutchshaw likened nature's release to how someone copes in the aftermath of violence.

"The butterflies you see here today are adults who have already gone through this process. Maybe they are a lot like you. You, who have already been through the struggle of trying to relearn how to put one foot in front of the other again. Maybe like them, you are just waiting to be set free," Cutchshaw said.

"It takes a miracle. And I certainly believe in miracles ... We can break the chains that have left us prisoners of the pain and fear. I stand before you this morning to reclaim my freedom and will live my life one day at a time, learning to fly again."


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