On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
78°
Showers
H 82° L 70°
  • cloudy-day
    78°
    Current Conditions
    Showers. H 82° L 70°
  • rain-day
    82°
    Today
    Showers. H 82° L 70°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    86°
    Tomorrow
    Chance of T-storms. H 86° L 71°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Pretrial motions in the Grinstead murder case: A preview of a troubled trial
Close

Pretrial motions in the Grinstead murder case: A preview of a troubled trial

Pretrial motions in the Grinstead murder case: A preview of a troubled trial

Pretrial motions in the Grinstead murder case: A preview of a troubled trial

From a court watcher’s perspective it’s apparent to most that the upcoming trial of Ryan Duke, charged with the 2005 murder of South Georgia high school teacher Tara Grinstead is sure to be nothing short of a spectacle of epic proportions. We got a preview of things to come during - of all things - a bond hearing where Duke asked, for the first time in two years, to be released on bond. It wasn’t the denial of bond, nor the fact that Duke asked for bond that is particularly noteworthy. It’s what the bond hearing devolved into that raised eyebrows. Despite losing the motion, the defense unexpectedly was able to depose the lead GBI investigator on a wide range of topics in a dress rehearsal for what promises to be a most controversial trial. 

To start, let’s have a look at what a bond hearing is supposed to be. 

It’s uncommon for bond to be set in murder cases but it’s not unheard of. Courts are supposed to consider the following factors in making bond decisions and the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that he: 

  1. Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required; 
  2. Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community; 
  3. Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial; and 
  4. Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice. 

Probable cause is not an issue and of course neither is guilt or innocence. A bond hearing is not a trial. 

The Duke bond hearing started out as most bond hearings do. The defense called Duke’s brother to testify regarding each of the factors set out above. But then it started a downward spiral into the surreal when the prosecutor called the lead GBI case agent as a witness - presumably as a rebuttal to the defense. A state’s witness, such as an investigator, can occasionally testify - to a point - about “what happened” because that’s relevant - to a point - for the court to determine whether the person poses a danger to the community. But in this case, the testimony was literally all over the place and went into minute detail about many things that have never been heard before. The “bond hearing” was effectively transformed into a deposition - a legal luxury not normally available to a criminal defendant in Georgia. 

So just what did we learn from this “bond” hearing? We learned that DNA from the bodily fluid of a police officer was mixed with the victim’s blood on some bedding and that “touch DNA” from Grinstead and Duke (along with DNA from at least two other people) was on a latex glove found outside her residence. “Touch DNA” has its own share of problems in terms of reliability and we can safely expect the defense to explore those problems at trial. Some of that other unidentified DNA from the glove could have come from Bo Dukes - the person accused of helping cover up the murder - and who the defense claims is the actual killer. 

We learned there were many investigative steps that could have been taken to verify statements made by both Duke and Dukes. The defense will argue that these follow up steps point to a biased investigation. This could have a huge impact in a trial where the defense will claim that the defendants confession was a false confession. 

We learned the GBI, in a breach of protocol and constitutional law, interviewed / talked with Duke twice after he had a lawyer. These interviews were undocumented in the GBI case file. They were not recorded. The DA apparently was unaware at the time that this tactic was being employed by the GBI until the defense raised it with them. The agent didn’t even sign in at the jail. We can only speculate as to why not. 

On top of all this, an abundance of otherwise inadmissible evidence consisting of hearsay and innuendo managed to come out publicly at a bond hearing. Most of this wouldn’t have seen the light of day at a trial. As the prosecution correctly pointed out “hearsay” may be admissible at a bond hearing, but it still has to be reliable evidence - not a regurgitation of all the salacious rumors from 2005. And it must be relevant to the issue of bond. It may turn out that the DA made a great tactical mistake by calling their lead case agent to testify and turn this bond hearing into an evidentiary free-for-all with no apparent boundaries. At a minimum it was surely heartbreaking for friends and family of the victim to have to re-live all the pain of the last 13 years by having old wounds reopened in such painful detail. 

I’ve previously written about why the venue for this trial really needs to be changed. Now more than ever the jury pool is really tainted - as if it weren’t already.

Philip Holloway, WSB legal analyst, is a criminal lawyer who heads his own firm in Cobb County, Georgia. A former prosecutor and adjunct professor of criminal justice, he is former president of the Cobb County Bar Association's criminal law section. Follow him on Twitter: @PhilHollowayEsq The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

Read More

News

  • You may be seeing social media posts promoting #BlackOutDay2020, but what is Black Out Day? Here are five things to know. 1. Blackout Day is persuading Black Americans to not spend money today, to show their economic power. If something needs to be purchased, the movement urges spending money at Black-owned businesses, CNN reported. It’s called a “day of solidarity in America where not one Black person in America spends a dollar,” unless it is spent at a Black-owned business, USA Today reported. Nielsen reports that Black Americans spent more than $1 trillion in 2018, according to CNN. 2. The day was promoted by Calvin Martyr, a social media personality/activist, for about two months. 3. Martyr and those taking part are hoping the day helps to end institutional racism that they have said lead to the deaths of Black Americans, CNN reported. It started after the death of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, but before the death of George Floyd. 4. Martyr likened to the spending boycott to the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott when the Black community refused to ride buses until they were allowed to sit wherever they wanted. 5. My Black Receipt is a related movement that urges for people to upload receipts of money spent at minority-owned businesses, USA Today reported.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department on Monday released loan-level data on each of the more than 4.9 million loans made under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The program was established in March by the CARES Act, aimed at shoring up small businesses struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities said the funds were meant to give business owners incentive to keep their employees on payrolls. Data released Monday includes the names of more than 660,000 businesses that received loans of $150,000 or more. A majority of the program’s beneficiaries -- about 80% -- asked for loans under that amount, with most seeking about $100,000, according to officials. >> See the full data released by SBA and the Treasury Department In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the program has helped to support 'more than 51 million jobs and over 80 percent of all small business employees.' Under the program, the government is backing $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money on payroll, rent and similar expenses. Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Atlanta’s fire chief has opted to self-quarantine pending the results of a COVID-19 test, one day after the city’s mayor announced that she tested positive for the virus.  Randall Slaughter is being tested for the coronavirus “out of an abundance of caution,” Atlanta Fire and Rescue spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford confirmed to AJC.com on Tuesday.  “He will also be in quarantine until his results return and will move forward based on those results,” Stafford said.  Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday announced that she tested positive for the virus.  “COVID-19 has literally hit home,” Bottoms wrote. “I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive.” — Please read more on AJC.com for updates.
  • Proms may have been canceled or delayed because of the coronavirus, but that did not stop creative teens from putting together their formal wear all made of duct tape. One gown stands out. Peyton Manker made a coronavirus-themed gown with rolls and rolls of the fix-it tape. She created images of people running from the virus to illustrate how the world tried to avoid it. She also honors those who are on the front lines, including health care workers and police, CNN reported. And what is a gown without accessories? Manker put together a coronavirus-shaped purse and mask that reads “flatten the curve,” CNN reported. Voting is still open in Duck Brand Duct Tape’s “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest. To vote and to see Manker’s competition, click here. Winners for each category -- dress or tux -- will be awarded $10,000 each. The runners-up will get $500 and a prize pack.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history, celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Jimmy Carter, 95, met then-Rosalynn Smith, 92, though his younger sister, Ruth, who was childhood friends with Rosalynn. They began dating in 1945 while Jimmy Carter was home from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. After their first date, Jimmy Carter told his mother that Rosalynn was the woman he was going to marry. The couple exchanged vows July 7, 1946, in their hometown of Plains, Georgia. Since then, they've lived in the Georgia Governor's Mansion and the White House. Together they've raised four children. In 1982, the Carters founded the Carter Center, an organization aimed at resolving issues around human rights and democracy. Their work earned the couple a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999. Then-President Bill Clinton said the couple has “done more good things for more people in more places than any other couple on Earth.” On his 75th birthday in 1999, Jimmy Carter said the most important decision he ever made in his life was “Marrying Rosalynn.”
  • If you see a large white dot in the sky, it is likely not an alien UFOs or even a weather balloon. Instead, it could be a large balloon that is the key to bringing internet access to remote areas. Google and its Alphabet company’s Loon division, are sending high-altitude balloons 12 miles into the sky to provide a network of internet services. The system has been in the testing phase in across the globe. On Monday, balloons were seen over Virginia and North Carolina after being tracked from Canada, WDBJ reported. The communication balloons were also sent up into the stratosphere to provide 4G LTE network connections to Kenya, The New York Times reported. Loon launched 35 balloons over the past few months to prepare for the Kenyan launch, the Times reported. This isn’t the first time the balloons were used to help facilitate communication. They were launched when Hurricane Maria destroyed cell towers in Puerto Rico in 2017. Until recently, however, they have only been used in emergency situations, according to the Times. They float on the air currents above the earth and allow people to have remote contact with family members, doctors and officials during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Tech Crunch.