Dubose trial and/or jury selection to be held elsewhere

Judge Alison T. Burleson converses with, from left, ADA Allison Mauldin, DA Stephen Bradley, and defense attorneys Gabrielle Amber Pittman and Nathaniel Studelska at a previous court hearing earlier this year. 

Putnam County residents will not be serving on the jury in the death penalty case trial of Ricky Allen Dubose, according to preliminary discussions Wednesday, Aug. 1.

Dubose is one of two prison inmate escapees charged in the shooting death of two correctional officers in Putnam County in June 2017. He and his attorneys, Gabrielle Amber Pittman and Nathaniel Studelska, with the Georgia Capital Defense Team, were in Putnam County Superior Court Wednesday morning, Aug. 1, for a court hearing before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Judge Alison T. Burleson. District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley, Chief Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin and Putnam County Assistant District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III also were there to discuss various motions that had been filed by the defense, including a change of venue.

Studelska told Judge Burleson the defense was not fully prepared to argue a change of venue, to which Burleson replied, “I thought that was the point of the hearing today.” She emphasized how no other judicial proceedings could move forward until it was determined where the trial would be held and where the jury would be pooled.

Pittman described the amount of research involved in making the argument. After several minutes of discussion, it was agreed to at least begin the discussions right away while they were all in the same building.

The large amount of media coverage the case already had received was pointed out by the defense. Pittman said she was receiving Google alerts yesterday that an Atlanta television news station had done something on it. She said the defense did not want the trial to be held in the Atlanta or Macon media markets.

Pittman also said an impartial jury could not be found in Putnam County or the surrounding area.

“There was a major hunt going on where individual people in this county were in fear for their (safety), and I don’t know if they could put that aside and give my client a fair trial,” she explained, adding, “that is my biggest concern.”

Burleson asked them to define what is outside the boundaries of the Atlanta and Macon media markets, and Pittman said they could not go to north Georgia because that is where Dubose was raised; so she was requesting south Georgia. Bradley asked if the media coverage was inaccurate or misleading, and suggested that pre-trial publicity would exist anywhere in the state.

“I don’t think the defense has presented a good legal reason to changing the venue, but I will concede because I feel it is a safer route,” he said. He also said he had no objection to jury selection being in another county.

When Judge Burleson asked each team to name their top five choices of counties where the jury could be chosen, or where the trial may be held, the defense said Worth, Grady, Toombs, Coffee and Glynn counties; and the prosecution said Glynn, Toombs, Emanuel, Montgomery or Grady counties. Burleson set a deadline of Monday, Aug. 13 for the decision to be finalized.

Throughout the discussion, two options were examined – moving the trial to another county’s courthouse and using that county’s jury, or bringing a jury from another county to the Putnam County Courthouse and holding the trial in Putnam. A final decision was not made.

Six other motions were discussed. See next week’s Eatonton Messenger for more details.

**By Lynn Hobbs, lynn@msgr.com

 

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