Judge David Roper said the “gears are being stripped” when cases such as Kelvin Johnson’s continue to be pushed back.
Johnson’s attorney, Teri Thompson, asked for the most recent postponement in the case on the grounds that she was involved in the trial of another capital case and didn’t pick up the Johnson file again until October. Roper, who had already issued a continuance in April with an admonition to move “expeditiously,” wasn’t persuaded.
“I’m having extreme difficulty understanding why we have to deal with one case at a time,” Roper said. “The system cannot work that way.”
Investigators say Johnson shot Tilman Coley “T.C.” Greene in the face on Aug. 26, 2009, then went through the open garage and shot to death his wife, Martha Greene, 69. He fled the home with a big-screen television and the couple’s Chevrolet pickup. Johnson has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said Wednesday that Johnson has also been linked by DNA evidence to an Aug. 8, 2009, rape and a July 23, 2009, burglary. Johnson has been indicted for both crimes, but among the issues in the capital case is whether to try them before the murder case.
Those two crimes, however, are part of a much longer criminal history, one that Wright called in court “one of the most prolific criminal histories” she has seen in 15 years as a prosecutor.
He’s been arrested for “virtually every crime known to humankind,” Wright said.
In explaining the request for a continuance, Johnson’s other attorney, David Wooten, said the mitigation specialists in the office are finding evidence on several cases at once. Often one document leads to another document or another person who can provide better mitigating evidence that would persuade a jury not to invoke the death penalty. It takes time to present the “strongest case possible,” Wooten said.
Thompson said that she owes her client a duty to bring him the most effective counsel and that that compelled her to file the motion for a postponement.
Roper said “delay is damage to both sides of the system,” but he had no alternative but to postpone the trial to June. He added that he intended to take some sort of action to remedy the situation with the Georgia Capital Defender system.