On Air Now

Listen Now


Very Cold
H 40° L 25°
  • clear-day
    Current Conditions
    Very Cold. H 40° L 25°
  • very-cold-day
    Very Cold. H 40° L 25°
  • very-cold-day
    Very Cold. H 42° L 24°

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

A  tossed murder case leads to discord in DeKalb

A tossed murder case leads to discord in DeKalb

A  tossed murder case leads to discord in DeKalb
Gov. Brian Kemp has appointed Shondeana Morris to the DeKalb County Superior Court. Morris previous served as a State Court judge. Photo provided by the Office of the Governor.

A tossed murder case leads to discord in DeKalb

A DeKalb County judge moved last week to find two murder suspects not guilty after a series of disagreements with prosecutors, leading to praise from defense attorneys and a vow from the district attorney to fight the decision.

Steven McAllister and Quintez Griffin were scheduled to face trial on Jan. 7 in the death of Carthel Lamont Johnson. Prosecutors described the 25-year-old as an innocent bystander to a robbery-turned-shooting inside a Brookhaven apartment in December 2018.

For weeks, prosecutors asked Superior Court Judge Shondeana Morris to delay the trial because two key state’s witnesses couldn’t be located. The judge, a longtime prosecutor who was appointed to the bench in June 2019 by Gov. Brian Kemp, said the prosecutors knew when the trial was for months and should have had their case ready. She denied five requests to reschedule the trial, as well as an attempt by the state to drop the charges. (The charges could have been brought back if the necessary witnesses were found, but the judge’s ruling means the defendants can’t be charged again.)

Once the trial started, the prosecutors, Oto Ekpo and Major Case Unit Director Lance Cross, declined to ask questions of the jurors, make an opening statement or call witnesses, saying it would be unethical to try the case without key witnesses.

Morris then granted a defense motion to rule the defendants were not guilty. Because of pending charges from other jurisdictions, McAllister and Griffin are still in jail.

District Attorney Sherry Boston said the prosecutors did everything in their power to get the witnesses to court on time, but they were avoiding authorities. Because acquittals can’t be appealed, Boston said her office is researching how to get justice for the victim’s family, including his mother, who was in court when the defendants were absolved.

“There’s a life that was lost,” Boston said in an AJC interview in her Decatur office. “There’s a family who watched all this go down.”

Drew Findling, who represented McAllister, praised the judge. What else was she supposed to do when the prosecutors wouldn’t participate in the trial? he asked. He said the judge’s decision was the only fair ruling she could’ve returned.

“This is a judge who was a career prosecutor,” Findling said. “We’re not talking about some pushover judge.”

READ: DNA analysis frees Ga. man wrongfully convicted of rape after 18 years

READ: The inside story of anti-nuke activists’ raid on Ga. Navy base

READ: A Georgia inmate’s final moments and his stepbrother’s loss

But the DA said the judge should have rescheduled, since that is an option used in many cases when witnesses can’t be found or other complications arise. Boston said she was still unclear why the judge wouldn’t grant a delay, especially after it became clear in late December that the witnesses were avoiding authorities.

In her order, Morris said the DA’s office filed belated motions and worked to keep the defendants in jail without bond. The prosecution had urged the judge against a bond request by saying they’d be ready for trial soon, Morris said. She also noted that on Dec. 9, the state asked to have DNA samples taken from the defendants, something that could have been done sooner because they had been in jail for a year.

“The State takes the position that these Defendants are dangerous to the community, but if so, it was the State which failed the community by failing to present any case at all for their conviction on the indicted charges,” Morris wrote. “If there are consequences to the community for this acquittal, such consequences are attributable solely to the State.”

Lester Tate, former head of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, read the judge’s order and heard the DA’s position. He said he thought Morris’ reasoning was sound.

“If you’ve got a specially set trial coming up, judges may or may not grant you a continuance, so you really ought to do everything you can to get ready,” Tate said. “I think by opposing a bond, the state put themselves in a position where they need to be able to timely try the case.”

Cross, one of the prosecutors, argued that even if the DA’s office had supported bond for the defendants, they would still be in jail because of charges from other cases. He added that the judge could have rescheduled the trial and granted the defendants bond if she’d wanted.

One of the needed witnesses was a man who was initially charged with felony murder in the case, but was later determined by investigators to be a victim, not a suspect.

Findling, the defense attorney, said he and his co-counsel Brian Steel had looked forward to cross-examining the man because it would have proved the defendants weren’t guilty.

“We believed and will always believe in our clients’ innocence of these charges,” he said.

J. Tom Morgan, the former DeKalb County DA and a law professor, said he empathized with the state, but it is the prosecution’s job to be ready for trial, even if they are accustomed to some judges granting continuances.

“It’s not the defendant or the defendant’s counsel or the judge’s problem that the state’s witnesses aren’t being cooperative,” he said. If the judge is saying it’s time for trial, prosecutors must make an attempt or move on “because you’re in DeKalb County, and you’ve got a lot of crime to deal with.”

Boston said the witnesses are wanted on bench warrants in California because they missed a court appearance related to her office’s attempt to have them brought in to testify. But even if they are found, the case may be over.

“The judge has put the case in a posture that even if we get these witnesses, potentially we’re not able to prosecute these two defendants,” the DA said. “We don’t understand why the court felt it necessary to go to what appears to be the extreme.”

Read the ruling below

Read More


  • On the eve of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the president’s legal team said Monday called the case “flimsy” and a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution,” according to The Associated Press. The brief, which was filed Monday in anticipation of arguments expected this week in the Senate impeachment trial, dismisses the case as a “brazenly political act” by the House of Representatives, The New York Times reported. The legal team also claims in its brief that the “rigged process” should be rejected by the Senate, the newspaper reported. The brief further states that neither of the two articles of impeachment against Trump are valid because they do not state a violation of the law, the Times reported. The 110-page brief from the White House asserts the case was never about finding the truth, the AP reported. 'Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way — any way — to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election,” Trump’s legal team wrote, according to the AP. “All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.” Proceedings in the impeachment trial are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
  • You might know him as Khal Drogo. Others see him as Aquaman. Regardless, actor Jason Momoa brought plenty of smiles to patients and families at UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Hospital officials said Momoa visited the facility while taking a break filming his Netflix feature in Pittsburgh, WPXI reported. The hospital posted photos on social media of the actor visiting patients at the facility. The Netflix movie, “Sweet Girl,” will begin filming in the fall. Momoa is producing it.
  • That was sew nice. A stray cat in Wisconsin lost her ears to an infection, but now she has some new ones after a woman crocheted her some new ones, WTMJ reported. The cat, named Lady in a Fur Coat, had to have her ear flaps removed according to the Dane County Humane Society. The feline was bought into the Humane Society in December and began treatment for chronic ear infections, spokeswoman Marissa DeGroot told CNN. The cat’s appearance was a little unsettling, so Ash Collins, who works at the Humane Society, decided to crochet Lady an ear bonnet, CNN reported. It took some gentle persuasion and treats, but the cat finally was fitted into her new purple ears. “It’s amazing because we see these strays and medical cases come in and I think we’re always surprised by their resiliency,” DeGroot told CNN. Less than 24 hours after the Humane Society posted the cat’s story on Facebook, Lady was adopted.
  • A New Hampshire man died Sunday night when his snowmobile fell through the ice on the largest lake in Maine, authorities said. Steven K. Allard, 56, of South Hampton, was returning from snowmobiling with his wife on Moosehead Lake when his vehicle broke through the ice on the west side of the lake, the Bangor Daily News reported. Allard’s snowmobile fell into the ice near the mouth of the Moose River, according to Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Allard was pulled from the lake at 10:15 p.m. but he was unresponsive, Latti told the Daily News. Allard was taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Latti said. “Snowmobilers need to stay aware of their surroundings and understand that ice conditions can change quickly,” Sgt. Bill Chandler, of the Maine Warden Service, told the Daily News. “This section of the lake, where the Moose River flows into Moosehead Lake, always has poor ice, and that is why there are marked trails on the lake so that snowmobilers can avoid the bad ice in this area.”
  • A woman was shot Friday night after an argument at an Applebee’s restaurant in South Carolina, authorities said. Joseph Raekwon Rapp, 23, of Greenwood, was charged with attempted murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, The State newspaper of Columbia reported. The woman, whose name and condition were not disclosed, was shot twice in the upper body, according to Greenville police. She was taken to an area hospital for surgery, WHNS reported. According to a news release, Rapp and the woman were arguing in the crowded restaurant around 9:21 p.m., WSPA reported. Greenwood police Maj. T.J. Chaudoin said the relationship between the two was not immediately clear, but describe the incident as a domestic situation, the Index-Journal of Greenwood reported. “Obviously there were a lot of people eating here tonight who were very startled,” Chaudoin told the newspaper. Rapp fled the restaurant but later turned himself in at the Greenwood County Detention Center, the newspaper reported. According to the public index, Rapp was out on bond while awaiting trial, the Index-Journal reported.
  • Police in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said a man broke into a home and forced a woman and a 1-month-old boy into a car at gunpoint, according to WTVD. The home invasion and kidnapping happened Monday at 1:12 a.m. Wani Thomas broke into a home on Tangerine Drive and forced Jasmine Livermore and the baby boy, Nathaniel Thomas, into a vehicle, police said. Authorities are currently searching for all three. Thomas is considered armed and dangerous and last seen wearing a brown jacket with blue jeans. Livermore, 20, was last seen wearing gray pants, a brown shirt and a camouflage jacket. Anyone with information should call Fayetteville police at (910) 676-2597 or Cumberland County Crimestoppers at (910) 483-8477.