Ga. top court tosses hunter's murder conviction

Man in jail 7 years after shooting death of his brother

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ATLANTA — Georgia's top court today  threw out the murder conviction of a man who has spent seven years behind bars for killing his brother in a hunting accident in a unanimous decision that immediately cut short the man's life prison sentence.

The Georgia Supreme Court's decision exonerates Joshua Hames, who was convicted of the 2002 murder of his brother Sam while on a hunting trip on the family's farm in Walton County. The decision found that the indictment against Hames failed to prove he had the criminal intent or recklessness necessary for conviction.

Hames had argued for years that he thought he was shooting a bobcat or other large animal through the scope of his rifle during that ill-fated hunting trip. He said neighbors had reported they'd recently seen a large cat roaming the area, and his brother wasn't wearing the bright orange safety clothing that hunters customarily wear.

But prosecutors said Hames violated the state law that said a hunter commits a felony if he seriously injures another while using a firearm "by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk." A jury agreed, convicting him of felony misuse of a firearm while hunting and felony murder.

Hames tried repeatedly to appeal the conviction, which was upheld in 2004 by the Georgia Supreme Court. But in 2009 a Baldwin County judge found the indictment "fatally defective" and set aside the convictions. State prosecutors then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The court's ruling, written by Justice David Nahmias, found the state "failed to produce sufficient evidence at trial to authorize a rational jury to find Hames guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." It also said that the indictment failed to prove that Hames made a conscious decision to endanger the safety of another person.

Defense attorney Holly Pierson said Hames is "thrilled" with the decision and that attorneys are working out the logistics for his release.


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Dixieman 07/12/10 - 11:55 am
Why on earth was this guy

Why on earth was this guy ever prosecuted for anything in the first place? Sheeeeeesh! (I am a lawyer and this is one of the most ridiculous cases I have ever seen).

Fiat_Lux 07/12/10 - 12:24 pm
Stupid judges, vindictive

Stupid judges, vindictive prosecutors, moronic juries. Welcome to the future of US justice. He was probably well-to-do and not of the right of the correct heritage for actual justice to have prevailed initially.

veggie-d 07/12/10 - 01:08 pm
dixieman- congratulations on

dixieman- congratulations on your accomplishments in college/law school...but...

it doesn't take a lawyer to see that shooting at ANYTHING YOU HAVE NOT POSITIVELY I.D.'ed SHOULD be a felony...

this is VERY similar to a someone shooting an innocent bystander in a drive-by..."mean to" or NOT...they are STILL guilty of killing an innocent person.

the guy CERTAINLY committed "negligent homicide"/ "THINKING he was shooting at "some kinda wild animal" (seems like to him "any ole animal will do.") when, in FACT, is was a HUMAN...why not prosecute him for that?

don't need too much formal education to know what you are shooting at...just patience...patience...patience...

seems like hunters would want to see people like this get time for their stupidity/impatience/recklessness/disregard for safety/etc...but they are the FIRST to rally behind him in support...why? so THEY can be forgiven/excused when THEY kill someone too?

get the message out that killing someone thru "mistaken identity" when hunting is akin to murder...and the woods would become MUCH safer for EVERYONE right????

it would also COMPLETELY ELIMINATE anyone from using the same excuse, when in fact they murder someone intentionally...

how could THAT be a bad idea?

BULLDOGM-H 07/12/10 - 01:44 pm
I think it is great that this

I think it is great that this innocent man is being released from prison. Obviously it was his brothers fault if it was a "family" hunting trip then the brother knew they were hunting and he wasn't wearing the orange safety vest that is required by law. They make these laws to keep people safe and if you break them then you are taking your life into your own hands. This man is going to live with the fact that he killed his own brother because of his brothers neglegance for the rest of his life isn't that punishment enough?

pantherluvcik 07/13/10 - 07:00 am
I don't know but I would have

I don't know but I would have to see the animal suit this brother was wearing, because even through the scope of a rifle you should be able to distinguish clothing and identify what you are shooting before firing a weapon. Dead can't be taken back, i'm sure he didn't do this with malice but he should have and did serve some time. I think life was a little harsh though.

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