ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a man’s murder conviction and life sentence, ruling that the trial judge should have allowed evidence that the suspect believed the man he shot and killed had molested a young female relative and that he should have told jurors they could consider the less serious charge of voluntary manslaughter.
It is now up to the DeKalb County district attorney to decide whether to retry the case in the 2008 killing. The district attorney’s office did not immediately have a comment on the reversal.
Documents in the case say the relative told Steven Lamar Scott that Dan Smith had been molesting her for eight years. Scott said that “once she told me that, something in me just snapped,” according to court filings. He said he left to buy cigarettes and beer, which calmed him down.
A short time after he returned from the store, the girl’s mother and Smith drove up while Scott and the girl were outside talking. The girl told her mother she needed to talk, and they went inside with Scott. When the girl told her mother about Smith, her mother told her to “quit lying,” according to Scott’s statement.
Scott went upstairs, got his gun and walked outside to confront Smith, who was still sitting in his car with his seat belt on. Scott says Smith called the girl an expletive and said he could do whatever he wanted. Scott said he “blacked out” and didn’t remember what happened next. Witnesses say Scott fired 12 rounds at Smith, stopping at one point to reload. Smith died from nine gunshot wounds.
Scott’s attorney said before trial that he planned to introduce evidence of the alleged molestation to support a charge of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. The state moved to exclude the evidence, and the trial judge ruled in favor of prosecutors. In March 2010, a jury found Scott guilty of multiple charges, including felony murder, and he was sentenced to life plus five years in prison.