Burke County death row inmate Willie Palmer back in court

Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 5:45 PM
Last updated Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 9:29 AM
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Nearly 18 years have passed since a mother and daughter were shot to death in a tiny house in Burke County. On Monday, the man convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the slayings is back in court.

Willie W. Palmer's attorneys are asking for a new trial in a 1997 murder conviction.  Special
Willie W. Palmer's attorneys are asking for a new trial in a 1997 murder conviction.

Defense attorney Ran­dolph Frails filed the latest motion for a new trial for Willie Palmer, who had three death penalty trials and wound up on Georgia’s death row in Jackson. Frails is handling Palmer’s defense alone because his former co-counsel is gravely ill.

Palmer, now 60, stood trial on capital murder charges for the Sept. 10, 1995, killings of Brenda Jenkins Palmer, 31, and Christine Jenkins, 15, in Vidette, Ga., where witnesses testified that Palmer’s estranged wife was trying to hide.

Palmer’s most recent trial in Burke County Superior Court ended in August 2007. On Monday, the first step in the appeals process begins with Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. hearing Palmer’s motion for a new trial.

Blanchard inherited the case from Senior Judge William M. Fleming Jr., who declared a mistrial in Pal­mer’s first trial in Burke Coun­ty and granted a motion to move the second trial to Wash­ington County, where Palmer was sentenced to death in November 1997.

That conviction and sentence were reversed on appeal 10 years later when it was revealed that the attorneys were never told that a crucial prosecution witness had been paid for his testimony.

Fleming also presided over Palmer’s third trial in Burke County in August 2007.

Among the defense’s grounds for a new trial is the contention that Fleming made improper comments in front of the jury about a doctor whose testimony was the cornerstone of defense attempts to persuade jurors to find Palmer intellectually impaired. Such a finding would have made him ineligible for a death sentence.

When the doctor’s testimony ended, Fleming commented, “What your testimony is, it doesn’t help us one way or the other?” When the witness responded that his testimony was useless, Fleming remarked: “That’s what I thought.”

Making remarks about defense witnesses earned Flem­ing a legal smack from the Georgia Supreme Court when it reversed a 2000 Augusta aggravated assault conviction.

“The trial judge crossed the line when he questioned defendant’s experts about post-traumatic stress syndrome and attempted suicide,” the high court stated. “In each of those instances, the trial judge effectively disparage defendant’s psychiatric defense and intimated that he gave it no credence whatsoever.”

It was a precedent-setting ruling because the Supreme Court had previously ruled such behavior wasn’t a reversible error unless the defense attorney objected at trial. In the 2000 case, the justices found the error was so serious that it demanded a reversal.

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soapy_725 01/06/13 - 07:26 pm
It worked in CC.

Maybe more than one time? Even with the crime of all crimes. Matricide.

Austin Rhodes
Austin Rhodes 01/06/13 - 08:11 pm
First of all...

Thanks a pant load, Judge Fleming.

But mainly...this scumbag threatened and tortured his estranged wife for years. He was jailed for violating protective orders, then when he was mistakenly released with no warning for his intended and eventual murder victim, he went and carried out his long promised deed.

This trash deserves the needle as bad as ANY person I have heard about.

The fact that the system, and the fool who was supposed to be serving as Brenda Jenkins' advocate in court, let her and her innocent 15 year old daughter down so badly is one of the lowest points I know of in the history of the Augusta judicial circuit.

griff6035 01/06/13 - 08:12 pm

I wonder how much Burke County taxpayers have had to give to the defense of this Killer. 18 years It is time to end this and give the victim's family some closure.

OpenCurtain 01/06/13 - 08:21 pm
Plenty of blame to go around

No Doubt the murder is a murder.

Remember IF he is convicted again, he still has FEDERAL Appeals to play.

Likely He'll die of old age before they stick a needle in his arm.

So much for Justice.

itsanotherday1 01/07/13 - 02:33 am
A point of clarity.

I'm on record as supporting parole for certain lifers when they get to later years and are no longer a threat. Not for heinous offenders like this though. If he doesn't get the needle he needs to be in a dark hole until he rots.

Jane18 01/07/13 - 05:04 am
Poor Little Murderers

And Mother and daughter are STILL dead! What about them? Their spilled blood is nothing to the courts, some lawyers, some judges, and for sure nothing to their MURDERER! Someone needs to grow some "big ones" and get this guy on the table with needles sticking in him...........

seenitB4 01/07/13 - 09:01 am

We need to reboot our Justice system & this crap is the reason why....

rmwhitley 01/07/13 - 09:44 am
Didn't the Bard

of Avon say something to the tune of " a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the sea--- a good start"?

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