Georgia high court delays trial in 2005 slaying of teacher - InfoNews

Current Conditions

0.4°C

Georgia high court delays trial in 2005 slaying of teacher

March 28, 2019 - 1:11 PM

ATLANTA - Georgia's highest court on Thursday delayed the trial of a man charged with killing a high school teacher whose disappearance remained a mystery for more than a decade.

The Georgia Supreme Court placed the murder trial of Ryan Duke on hold while the court decides whether it has jurisdiction to hear an emergency appeal he filed dealing with funding for expert defence witnesses. Oral arguments before the high court were set for May 7.

Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday in rural Irwin County, where Duke is charged with the slaying of Tara Grinstead.

The teacher and beauty queen's disappearance in October 2005 baffled her hometown of Ocilla, and her face loomed for years on a billboard seeking tips. Her death was confirmed after Duke and another man were arrested in 2017.

Duke's defence attorneys appealed to the state Supreme Court after the trial judge denied them funding for expert witnesses in DNA, false confessions, and psychology.

Superior Court Judge Bill Reinhardt had found Duke was unable to pay for his defence. But the judge denied him money for defence experts after Duke accepted the offer of two private attorneys willing to defend him for free, as opposed to being appointed a state-funded public defender.

The Supreme Court's order Thursday said Duke's pretrial appeal raised "difficult and important issues for which there does not appear to be controlling legal precedent." But the court questioned whether it has jurisdiction before Duke stands trial. The May 7 hearing will deal with that issue.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Jason Shoudel testified at a pretrial hearing that Duke confessed to killing Grinstead nearly 14 years ago after he broke into her home to steal money for drugs. GBI agents have also said DNA matching both Duke and Grinstead was found on a latex glove discovered in her yard.

Duke's attorneys have said he made a false confession under the influence of drugs. They said in court filings Duke was asleep at home when Grinstead was killed.

The suspect's former best friend and similarly named co-defendant, Bo Dukes, was convicted last week of helping conceal Grinstead's death. He told authorities he helped Duke burn her body in a rural pecan orchard. A judge sentenced Dukes last Friday to 25 years in prison.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

  • Popular vernon News
  • Comments
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile