Judge to consider retrial

A Superior Court judge agreed Friday to consider a motion to retry a man convicted of killing a Grovetown resident during a home invasion.

A Columbia County jury had convicted Willie Bernard Butler, 20, in the September 2008 murder of Rickey Gibson, 33, in his Grovetown home. Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. sentenced Butler and co-defendant Martin Napoleon Homes, 18, to life in prison.

During a hearing at the Evans courthouse, Victor Hawk, Butler's defense attorney, tried to persuade Blanchard to grant a motion giving Butler a second trial.

Hawk said Friday that Butler and Holmes should have been tried separately. He also contended that an eyewitness identification of Butler was flawed, testimony of a shoe print of the scene possibly belonging to Butler was too speculative, and Blanchard's decision to replace a juror during the trial for discussing the case with other jurors was inappropriate.

Assistant District Attorney Charles Sheppard argued that defendants accused of the same crime often are tried together and that the eyewitness identification of Butler is valid because he was near the crime scene not long after the incident. He said that partial shoe prints have been used as evidence in criminal trials for decades and that the judge had every right to remove a juror for discussing the case before all the evidence was presented.

Blanchard said he would consider the motion and decide "in a couple of days."

Butler, Holmes and three other men -- Karmbi Octavious Young, 20; Patrick Booker, 19; and Garland Ray Pittman, 15 -- were accused of killing Gibson.

Pittman was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. He received an additional 10 years in prison for robbery and two five-year probation terms for two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Booker was found guilty of burglary, armed robbery, two counts of aggravated assault and other charges in October 2009. The jury acquitted Booker of malice murder and couldn't reach a verdict on the felony murder charge. He was sentenced to life in prison.

A jury convicted Young of murder, armed robbery, burglary, kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of marijuana in August 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison.

The jury found Butler and Holmes guilty of burglary, armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Holmes also was found guilty of misdemeanor marijuana possession. In addition to life sentences, Blanchard handed down 20-year sentences on several of the other charges.