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Citing new evidence, condemned Georgia inmate seeks mercy

ATLANTA (AP) - Lawyers for a man set for execution next week are asking Georgia's parole board to spare his life, arguing that newly discovered evidence raises doubts about their client's guilt.

Carlton Gary, who's known as the "stocking strangler," is scheduled to die March 15 by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital. The 67-year-old inmate was convicted in 1986 on three counts each of malice murder, rape and burglary for the 1977 deaths of 89-year-old Florence Scheible, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond and 74-year-old Kathleen Woodruff.

From September 1977 to April 1978, a string of violent attacks on older women terrified the west Georgia city of Columbus. The women, ranging in age from 59 to 89, were beaten, raped and choked, often with their own stockings. Seven died and two were injured in the attacks.

Prosecutors have consistently said the same man carried out all nine attacks.

Police arrested Gary six years after the last killing, in May 1984. He became a suspect when a gun stolen during a 1977 burglary in the upscale neighborhood where all but one of the victims lived was traced to him.

In a clemency application submitted Wednesday to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Gary's lawyers argue evidence that would have helped their client wasn't available to his defense team at trial because the necessary testing methods didn't exist at the time or because prosecutors failed to disclose it.

"We are not talking about questionable recanting witnesses who came forward long after trial, but hard physical evidence of innocence," his lawyers wrote. That evidence would have raised reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors who convicted him, they contend.

The arguments in the clemency petition have previously been raised in court filings, and lawyers for the state have consistently disputed their validity.

The parole board, which is the only authority in Georgia with the power to commute a death sentence, has scheduled a closed-door clemency hearing for Gary on March 14.

Since the state says the same person carried out all the attacks, excluding him from even one "would prove, under the prosecution's own theory, that Mr. Gary was innocent of all nine attacks," his lawyers wrote.

DNA testing done years after the trial on semen found on clothing worn by one of the women who survived does not match Gary, his lawyers wrote. That's significant, Gary's lawyers assert, because the woman had dramatically identified Gary as her attacker during his trial, and the prosecution relied heavily on her testimony.

The defense also belatedly received a police report in which the woman is reported to have told officers she was asleep at the time of the attack, that her bedroom was dark and she wouldn't be able to identify or describe her attacker, the clemency application says.

Bodily fluid testing done on semen found on Thurmond's body and on stains on Scheible's sheets also likely exclude Gary, his lawyers argue. DNA analysis would have provided further evidence, they wrote, but it couldn't be done because the samples were discovered to have been contaminated at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

A shoeprint found at one of the scenes was not disclosed to the defense until 20 years after his trial and would have cast doubt on his guilt because his size 13-and-a-half foot would not have fit in the size 10 shoe that made the print, the application says.

Additionally, defense experts testified that evidence of a bite mark on one of the victims that was missing for years does not match Gary's teeth, and fingerprint evidence relied upon by the prosecution was problematic.

Authorities have said Gary confessed to participating in the burglaries but said another man committed the rapes and killings. His lawyers say the unrecorded and undocumented statement "fits all the recognized hallmarks of a false confession that never happened."

Lawyers for the state have previously disputed these claims in court filings. They say Gary's claims have repeatedly been rejected by the courts. Furthermore, they've argued, the state now has even more evidence that proves Gary's guilt, and a judge who denied him a new trial found that none of the evidence Gary's lawyers cited would likely have changed the verdict.

Gary would be the first inmate executed by Georgia this year.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS — Their situations are decidedly different. Then again, they’re much the same. Both Roquan Smith and Trent Thompson are juniors, so both had a year of eligibility at Georgia remaining when they decided to turn pro in January. As we understand it now, Smith toiled terribly over the decision. Thompson, by contrast, never really had a doubt. Yet, as they sit a month away from the NFL draft, it’s only Smith who seems assured of NFL riches. Nobody seems to be sure what to make of Thompson’s fortunes. He’ll get drafted, certainly, but how long he may have to wait is a matter of much debate. The buzz at Georgia’s pro day on Wednesday was that Thompson is looking at a third- or fourth-round call at best. Smith, by contrast, has been invited to the NFL draft ceremonies in Arlington, Texas, and projects as a top-15 pick. That was pretty much the feedback Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award winner, received when he filled out his underclassman evaluation application from the NFL back in December. Yet he insists his decision wasn’t the no-brainer that many of his Georgia teammates described. “Top 15 is pretty special,” said Smith, who led the SEC in tackles and the Bulldogs in sacks and tackles for loss, as well. “I knew I’d pretty much be a first-round pick; that’s what they were telling me. But, at the end of the day, it wasn’t even about that for me. It was more about the things I enjoy [at Georgia] and what we did together. It was special, very special. It’ll definitely be something I miss, but life goes on and you have to do what’s best for you.” Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb, Davin Bellamy and Sony Michel all chose to return in 2017 for their senior seasons for much the same reason. However, none of them received the level of draft grade that Smith did. Their feedback was similar to what Thompson heard. But these decisions aren’t based solely on draft grades and contract potential. There also can be extenuating factors. Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle from Albany, has been inundated with injuries throughout his college career. He had shoulder surgery a year ago and struggled with knee injuries last season. He also had a rather high-profile medical episode in February 2017 that resulted in his hospitalization and withdrawal from school. Not only did the incident create health concerns for Thompson, it also put him in a hole academically. Whether he would have been eligible to play another season for the Bulldogs is unclear. But most believe it was time for the player affectionately known as “Big Jolly” to make the jump to the pros, anyway. “Everybody has their own things going on,” said Bellamy, who also worked out for scouts Wednesday. “We don’t know what’s going on at home for a guy that may influence their decision. For Roquan, man, it was a no-brainer. I kind of felt like with him there was nothing else to prove. But I’d say the same with Trent, really. He was a three-year starter here. He put his body on the line for his team. It gets to a point where you have to be a little selfish, thinking about yourself and your career.” Thompson certainly arrived at UGA with more fanfare. In fact, when he signed with the Bulldogs out of Albany’s Westover High, he was the No. 1 overall prospect in the country, according to the composite rankings compiled by 247Sports. Thompson lived up to that billing at times. By the end of his sophomore year, he was almost unblockable. He definitely was for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, earning both overall and defensive MVP honors with 8 tackles and 3 sacks. He’d finish the season with 56 total stops. But between recovering from shoulder surgery and battling a knee sprain, Thompson’s snaps decreased in 2017. He ended up alternating with sophomore Tyler Clark, who emerged as a star in his own right. Thompson missed two games and finished with 38 tackles, 3.5 of those for loss. “He’s been pretty beat-up,” Bellamy said of Thompson. “But he has three years of good film in the best conference in America and he’s been dominant all three of those years. I think he’s going to do pretty good at the next level.” Most everybody agrees about that. In all these cases, Georgia players who are considering making the jump early consult Kirby Smart as well as their position coaches. But they also look to sources outside the football program. The key is arriving at an informed objective opinion. “I tell them whatever that ask,” Smart said. “We’re advocates for our players and we want to do a great job for them. Trenton’s certainly done tremendous job for us since being here. He’s pushed through a lot of injuries and he’s a great kid. We wish him nothing but the best.” Smart was asked whether he thought Thompson would benefit from another year in college. “That’s not my decision,” he said. “Our job as coaches is to get them information. That’s what I always try to do. Whether they decide to go or decide to stay, it’s the same thing. You arm them with ammunition. I’ve got to give them all the information. Information is power. And then they do with the information what they want. That’s the best thing we can do as coaches.” Thompson seemed to struggle through some of his drills Wednesday. He appeared to be favoring his right leg whenever was asked to do timed runs and dummy step-overs, as well. Smith had a nearly flawless workout, even though his status indicated he need not even bother with participating. He didn’t do any of the physical testing but went through position drills with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Lions coach Matt Patricia presiding. For as much fuss that is being made about him now, it’s hard to believe Smith ever considered coming back to Georgia one more year. “He was real close,” Smart said. “He had several moments where he was leaning toward coming back, several moments he was leaving. Again, that’s not my decision. All we do is give them the information we get and try to educate them with that information. He did a great job of handling it.” The post Same decision, different draft scenarios for Georgia juniors Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — As Georgia likes to say, it was a good day to be a Bulldog. It was quite a scene in the House of Payne on Wednesday. That’s the new affectionate nickname of Georgia’s indoor practice facility, officially named the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility earlier this year thanks to a recent $10 million donation. On Wednesday, however, it might well have been called NFL Central. On one side of the 102,000-square foot facility were dozens of NFL team representatives — all 32 teams were present, many sending their head coach. On the other side were dozens of media types meticulously covering the proceedings, the SEC and NFL networks broadcasting live. And in the middle were 21 matriculated Georgia football players displaying their wares in hopes of fulfilling their lifelong dreams of becoming NFL players. A bunch of them will. Most projections have at least eight Bulldogs getting selected in the 2018 draft, which would tie for the most in program history (2008). But it could go north of that. Several players who did not get one of the team’s 10 invitations to the NFL combine last month performed — and performed well — on Wednesday and could hear their names called in April. And even if they don’t, there is bound to be at least a few who make teams as undrafted free agents. The Bulldogs have made that somewhat of a specialty (see David Andrews of the Patriots). All that’s good news for Georgia. There are many who have taken issue with the Bulldogs for coming up short in their pursuit of national titles for the last couple of decades. But there can be no complaint about the consistency with which this school and this program turn out professional football players. And, lest we forget, that is the core of the college mission — to prepare young people for professional careers, be it in football, chemistry or business administration. There was a downside to Wednesday’s proceedings, however. There is the reality of what it means for the current Georgia team. There is, in fact, a ton of talent heading out from beneath those famed arches. That notion was most starkly on display when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and new Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia — Belichick’s defensive coordinator the previous five seasons — oversaw the linebacker workouts. The four prospects that they were putting through the paces were Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Reggie Carter and Roquan Smith. That’s Georgia’s entire starting linebacker corps through the College Football Playoff run (and for most of the 2017 season). That’s a lot for any one team to replace in one season. Then again, it’s what you shoot for as a program. “I’m kind of used to it,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who was at Alabama nine years before joining the Bulldogs. “To be honest with you, when you sit back and look at all the good players you’ve been able to coach over your career, they all have to be replaced by somebody. Today is really about [the NFL hopefuls]. It’s an honor to say we got to coach them but it’s even better to get to watch them do what they love to do and they get to do it in front of a wonderful audience. I mean, who gets to do linebacker drills with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia?” The moment wasn’t lost on the participants. “It was great getting advice and technique tips from those type of guys who have been in the business for a long time,” said Smith, who projects as an early first-round pick and will attend the NFL draft ceremonies in Arlington, Texas, next month. “That was definitely big. I’m a student of the game, college and NFL, but obviously everybody knows who Bill Belichick is.” Smith, the Butkus Award winner, made quite a statement by just being willing to go through the workouts. He projects as a top-15 draft selection and already went through this process at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month. Meanwhile, he had lunch with the Chicago Bears’ brass Tuesday and is about to be jetted around to meetings San Francisco, Buffalo, Indianapolis and New York. Nonetheless, Smith said he wanted to be there Wednesday at UGA’s Pro Day. It has gotten to be a tradition, a thing, as evidenced by the presence of Jordan Jenkins and a half-dozen other Bulldogs alums currently drawing league paychecks. “It’s very exciting,” Smith said. “You only get to go through this process one time in life. So I’m just soaking it all up and taking advantage of everything.” And while Smith really had nothing left to prove, others, such as Javon Wims, felt like they did. The Bulldogs’ leading receiver was invited to the NFL combine and did every possible exercise there. But he did everything in Athens, as well, and it appears to have paid off. He caught every pass thrown his way during position drills, then bettered his marks in the broad jump and 40-yard dash, improving to 4.47 seconds from 4.53 in the latter. “That’s why we come to Georgia,” Wims said of the massive scout turnout on their home turf. “Guys want to come here to have this opportunity, to be embraced by all these scouts. I wanted to come in and show them that I had the whole [wide receiver] skill set and I think I did that.” That’s why Smart was beaming Wednesday. Even though he knows he’s losing a ton of talent from his roster, he knows their dreams are being realized while also fueling the dreams of future Bulldogs. “I think it’s honorable what they’ve done,” he said of the 21 soon-to-be-former Bulldogs. “They’ve been a great group and they’ve been really special to Georgia.” The post For Kirby Smart, Georgia’s massive pro day a validation of good work done by all appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Braves third baseman Johan Camargo may start the season on the disabled list. Manager Brian Snitker said a decision will have to be made in the next couple of days and he’s leaning in the direction of DL. Camargo has been out just over a week with a strain in his right oblique/lower back area and hasn’t faced a pitcher since March 13. Never miss a minute of what’s happening with the Braves. Subscribe to myAJC.com
  • ATHENS, Ga. – It began when Bill Belichick walked to a corner of the Georgia indoor facility. The area cleared, and the four players gathered around him. At first, it looked like it would just be a nice brief opportunity to meet the New England Patriots coach. But then it kept going. Over the next 20 minutes the coach considered by many to be the most accomplished coach in NFL history personally ran drills with the four Georgia starting linebackers during its playoff run: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and Reggie Carter. “Control the block. Don’t get off it. Control it,” Belichick said, calmly but firmly guiding the four linebackers through one drill. “Knock it out. Finish. Finish!” Belichick said at another point. Belichick’s aide during the drill: Matt Patricia, the new Detroit Lions coach who had been the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator. The occasion was UGA’s pro day, which turned into a public mini-tryout for Georgia’s now-former linebackers with the most recognizable, and accomplished, coach in the NFL. “It’s crazy. It’s kind of surreal,” Lorenzo Carter said. “Growing up I was a Pats fan. So seeing Bill, having Coach Belichick work us through drills it’s cool. But it’s what we work for.” It wasn’t a surprise that Belichick, who politely declined an interview request afterward, was in attendance. He’s come before; he personally worked out offensive lineman David Andrews in preparation for the 2014 draft. Andrews went undrafted, the Patriots signed him as a free agent, and Andrews just started a second straight Super Bowl. This time the star power at UGA was quite evident: Smith headlines a draft class that could be the best in Georgia history, with as many as five players projected to be selected in the first four rounds, including three who could go in the first round. Four NFL coaches attended: Belichick, Patricia, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and Atlanta’s Dan Quinn. So did personnel people, including Falcons’ general manager Tom Dimitroff, who lauded the four Georgia linebackers. “It’s such a talented group,” Dimitroff said. “They’re big guys who have range. When you talk about Lo Carter or you talk about Roquan, those guys can fly. Their range is so important for our defense.” “It’s an honor to say we coached them, but it’s even better to see them do what they want to do,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “And to do it in front of a wonderful audience. I mean, who gets to do linebacker drills with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia?” The somewhat-impromptu session happened near the end of the pro day. When Belichick has attended in the past he has mostly watched. The NFL draft process is so cloak and dagger, with teams not wanting other teams to know who they’re working out or what they’re thinking. This, however, was in full view of everybody. Which doesn’t mean the Patriots are about to select one of those four. (They’d have to trade up from their No. 31 overall pick to get Smith.) Smart opined it was just about Belichick wanting to be involved. “I know he’s got a passion, he loves the game, he loves coaching,” Smart said. “So it’s a chance for him to get out there and coach guys and make them better – and evaluate talent.” It led to one accidental moment: Smith knocked over Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who was assisting in a drill in which linebackers are asked to jump from a stance and push off. Bellamy and Carter had done so without incident, but when it was Smith’s turn, he knocked the 68-year-old Pasqualoni to the ground. “I don’t know what I did, if I hit it a little awkward or anything to make him flip like that,” Smith said. “But I was just trying to get a work in.” Smith was asked if he apologized. “No I didn’t apologize,” Smith said with an incredulous smile. The day wasn’t all about those four starting linebackers and their very public tryout. Georgia had 22 players working out. A few other notables: Javon Wims, the team’s leading receiver last year, said he improved his time in the 40-yard dash, from 4.53 at the NFL combine last month to 4.47 on Wednesday. Punter Cameron Nizialek boomed some punts into the roof at the indoor facility. Tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb caught some passes but didn’t run or lift. Aaron Davis, the four-year starter in the secondary who was snubbed for an invite to the NFL combine, tried to make up for it, showing scouts his speed and catching ability. But the highlight was the four linebackers working with the legendary head coach. They were what Smart called “recognition drills” that are more standard for a team practice, and typically aren’t done at the combine. Belichick was very hands on, running with the players during part of the drills. When it ended, the four linebackers gathered around, and Belichick extended his hand. “Thank you. Thank you,” Belichick said, shaking each of their hands. Smith later played the session off as no big deal. (“My job is to get the work done, and that’s end of it,” he said.) And so did Bellamy. “Everybody’s going to be like, ‘Whoa, that’s Bill Belichick.’ But at the end of the day he’s here to work me out,” Bellamy said. “And any coach here that’s here to work me out I’m going to give 110 [percent] for. So I was just locked in and giving it all I had.” The post The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Isaiah Wynn was the anchor of the Georgia football team’s offensive line as it won an SEC championship, the Rose Bowl and came within a play of winning the national championship. And he did it while not fully healthy. Wynn tore his labrum on Nov. 18 against Kentucky, and put off surgery until the end of the season. “Yeah it was (limiting). But shoot we had a heck of a season so why let that stop us from getting to where we needed to go,” Wynn said on Wednesday. Wynn estimated he played the rest of the season at 85 percent. It’s common for players to play through a labrum tear, which sounds worse than it seems: The labrum is a piece of cartilage attached to the edge of the shoulder. “It’s kind of harder to block with that because you’re always getting it jammed back,” Wynn said. “But it’s good.” Wynn and Georgia kept the injury under wraps until the end of the season. He played four full games with it: The wins over Georgia Tech, Auburn in the SEC championship and Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, and the overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship. “He’s got a great toughness,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I don’t want to make a big deal about it for Isaiah, there’s a lot of guys on our team, Trent (Thompson) dealt with labrums. We’ve got a lot of guys with labrums. It’s an injury that’s very common in football. We see it more in high school where guys are coming in and having the surgery done before they even get here. I had it done. “But it’s one of those things where Isaiah being an offensive lineman he’s constantly got his hands outside his framework when a guy gets away, and it makes you vulnerable to that injury. But it’s also something that sometimes you can’t make worse, you’ve just got to push through, and boy he’s a tough guy. Because I would see it come out, see it slip, and he would keep right on playing.” Wynn said he heard from teams at both tackle and guard. He started at guard for most of his sophomore and junior seasons, then moved permanently to left tackle for his final season. Things went better for Georgia when he was at one position: The Bulldogs were 19-2 with Wynn at left tackle. Some projections have Wynn going in the first round of the NFL draft next month.   The post Isaiah Wynn played hurt during Georgia playoff run appeared first on DawgNation.