Giddings’ mother vows to fight ‘tooth and nail’ as case goes to trial

Telegraph staffFebruary 25, 2013 

The mother of slain Mercer University law school graduate Lauren Giddings says make no mistake, she thinks her daughter’s alleged killer is a “coward” and that he should suffer.

But Karen Giddings wants his ultimate punishment and judgment “in God’s hands.”

On Monday, soon after a September trial date was set for accused killer Stephen McDaniel, Karen Giddings said she was “in a little bit of shock that it’s coming up so quickly.”

District Attorney David Cooke had earlier in the day asked Judge S. Phillip Brown for a trial date, and Sept. 9, the earliest one that could be scheduled, was agreed upon.

“We’re doing everything we can to get justice for Lauren and the community,” Cooke said. “The only way we can have a trial is to get it scheduled.”

Last week, prosecutors, noting that the Giddings family was on board with the decision, opted to remove the death penalty as a possible punishment for McDaniel.

Coupled with last week’s development, Monday’s news is a milestone in a case that began in June 2011, when Giddings’ dismembered torso was found in a curbside trash bin at her downtown Macon apartment.

Giddings, 27, who was from Maryland, and McDaniel, from Lilburn, were at the time next-door neighbors and recent Mercer law school graduates.

McDaniel was jailed soon after the slaying and has been in jail since.

Floyd Buford, one of his lawyers, on Monday said, “We’re looking forward to finally getting this case in front of a jury.”

Because of a backlog at FBI labs, many pieces of potential trace evidence -- hair, fibers and the bathtub taken from Giddings’ Georgia Avenue apartment -- were not expected to be examined until McDaniel’s trlal date was set.

In phone call with The Telegraph from Giddings’ Maryland hometown, her mother wanted to make clear that her family isn’t at odds in the least with the decision not to seek death for McDaniel.

“We were only divided as a family in some of our opinions,” Karen Giddings, 52, said. “But we’ve become closer than ever in our effort to stand united. ... Ultimately it came down to my belief. ... I believe in the sovereignty of God. He is all-knowing ... and the most powerful judge. And I believe in the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death. But it was really hard...”

She said taking away the capital punishment option is not a sign of her family backing down.

“My only wish right now for the coward McDaniel is to spend the rest of his life in a Georgia state prison,” she said.

“As feisty as Lauren was, and her passion for life and her family, I can’t help but think that she’d just be so full of the zeal trying to do everything she could to give him the worst possible punishment. ... Ultimately, that’s what we want, too. We just don’t feel that we have the right to take anybody’s life. That’s in God’s hands.”

Although Lauren Giddings and McDaniel were neighbors and classmates, they were not close. They had stayed on as tenants at their apartment complex to study for the state bar exam.

A month and a half after graduation, Giddings was dead.

“We are gonna fight tooth and nail. There never will be complete justice for Lauren, but in no way are we laying down or taking this lightly,” Karen Giddings said.

“I’m not doing this to be nice or even ... merciful. It’s just something I don’t believe I have the right to do.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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