As the judge presiding over the Young Thug/YSL trial, Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural D. Glanville will substantially influence the proceedings. While the jury ultimately will decide all the disputed issues of fact, Chief Judge Glanville will oversee all aspects of jury selection and presentation of the case. He will rule on evidentiary objections, motions to exclude evidence, testimony and witnesses, and post-trial motions and will issue the final instructions to the jury before their deliberations. While it is difficult to predict how he will decide these issues, understanding his background can give insight into how effective he may be and how he will assert himself in these proceedings.
Chief Judge Glanville was born in Columbus, Ohio. He attended Brevard College and joined ROTC there. In 1982, he attended the University of Georgia and joined the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as Infantry Second Lieutenant, but he delayed his military service to attend law school at the University of Georgia. After receiving his degree, he served on active duty from 1990 through 1993 and then joined the 213 Legal Operations Detachment, where he served in several positions.
In 1998, he was selected as Chief of Operational and Civil Law for the 2125th Garrison Support Unit (XVIII Airborne Corps). In 2000, he served as the Command Judge Advocate for the 359th Signal Brigade and was then selected to serve as the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) for the 335th Signal Command. As the 335th SJA, he deployed in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. Following this, he served as the Commanding General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Rule of Law Support Mission/Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan. He was then promoted to Brigadier General, Chief Judge, and Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Chief Judge Granville was the first African-American Reserve Judge Advocate to be promoted to General Officer.
In his civilian legal career, Chief Judge Glanville worked as a prosecutor with the DeKalb County Solicitor General’s Office and the Fulton County Solicitor General’s Office. He also worked as a defense attorney for the United States Army Trial Defense Service. He has served as a Fulton County judge for 26 years, first on the Fulton County Magistrate Court for eight years and then on the Fulton County Superior Court for the past 18 years.
Chief Judge Granville indisputably brings substantial judicial experience to these proceedings. Having served as a Fulton County judge for 26 years, he has likely seen just about everything in his courtroom. He has demonstrated superior leadership and organizational skills based on his promotion to the highest levels of command in the Army Reserve. He will likely be able to maintain firm control of these proceedings, even as massive and unwieldy as they may be.
Chief Judge Granville’s experience as both prosecutor and defense attorney indicates that he has experienced the challenges and frustrations that both sides face in criminal trials and suggest that he will not necessarily be biased one way or the other.
Chief Judge Granville has already received some criticism based on his denial of bond for Jeffrey Lamar Williams, professionally known as Young Thug, at a hearing in June 2022. Despite testimony in support of Williams, including from music executive Kevin Liles, a 15-year-old motivational speaker who credited Williams with changing his life for the better, and several community activists, Chief Judge Glanville ultimately denied bond, keeping Williams incarcerated pending his trial. He stated that he was doing so based on significant testimony and other evidence offered by the prosecution showing that Williams was the leader of the YSL gang and that he represented a danger to the community, particularly to witnesses and other individuals indicted in the case.
Judge Glanville received criticism for this ruling on social media and in various media outlets, questioning his relationship to the culture and whether he is truly an ally for marginalized communities.
This demonstrates the fine line that Chief Judge Granville must walk in this case. On the one hand, he is doubtless aware of the injustices perpetrated on young black men by law enforcement and the judicial system in Georgia and of the bias held by many against black hip-hop artists. On the other hand, the charges are not baseless, and some significant evidence exists to support accusations that Williams and the other defendants committed at least some of the offenses with which they were charged.
Chief Judge Granville has a difficult task ahead of him. While he is unlikely to make everyone happy, hopefully, he can chart a fair and unbiased path through these complex and challenging proceedings.