DeKalb County, Ga. - A new judge is getting up to speed on the upcoming murder trial of former DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen.
Olsen fatally shot 27-year-old Anthony Hill, an unarmed man and Afghanistan war veteran who had been meandering naked through his Chamblee apartment complex in 2015.
The trial had been scheduled to start February 25, almost two weeks before the four-year anniversary of the March 9 fatal shooting, but was delayed after a recent shakeup involving the judge who had been overseeing the case.
Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson began a status conference Friday morning acknowledging she is coming into the trial with a blank slate.
“I don’t know anything about this case other than it is a defendant that is charged with murder and it happens to be a police officer,” said Dear Jackson.
Earlier this month, Judge J.P. Boulee unexpectedly recused himself from the case in a court order in which he said even the appearance of impartiality should be avoided in trials. He had recently donated money to an anti-domestic violence fun run sponsored by the district attorney.
Dear Jackson, who is newly elected to the bench in DeKalb County Superior Court, accepted the case after three other judges recused themselves as well.
Assistant District Attorney Pete Johnson filled in the judge on the history of the case, including 2018’s immunity hearing in which Olsen unsuccessfully sought to have the previous judge dismiss the charges on the grounds of self-defense.
The lawyers discussed the framework of a giving potential jurors a questionnaire, which had been drafted while Boulee was still on the case, and estimated the trial would take no longer than three weeks from jury selection to verdict.
While Johnson estimated picking a jury would take no more than two days, defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer thinks jury selection itself could take up to four days.
“I think that in large part depends on how many jurors we get who know about the case, but then also there are just some underlying kind of societal issues with this case that people may have strong feelings about,” she says.
The defense says it will have a motion to argue seeking to bar the State from presenting certain facts.
The lawyers and judge also discussed scheduling conflicts for potential trial dates. Clark Palmer detailed upcoming trials and travel plans a couple of the defense team have, including an expected two-month federal case beginning in April.
“I will get you a date within a week,” said Judge Dear Jackson.
“We’ll be ready as soon as the Court is able to schedule it,” said Johnson.