Originally created 04/17/99

Convicted killer seeks new trial for slaying



WAYCROSS, Ga. -- The man at the heart of Georgia's infamous "toolbox murder case" was back in court Thursday, blaming his dead defense attorney -- a former state lieutenant governor -- for botching his case because of heavy drinking.

Jack Ray Wallace, a Powder Springs chiropractor, is appealing his conviction and seeking a new trial in the 1990 slaying that is considered one of the most-notorious in state history.

Mr. Wallace, 70, says he was denied a fair trial because of errors committed by his original defense attorney, the late Peter Zack Geer Jr., who he alleged was impaired by alcohol during the case.

He also said he feared Mr. Geer, whom he portrayed as arrogant, belligerent and negligent.

He also contends that his constitutional protection against self-incrimination was violated because Superior Court Judge Joseph B. Newton allowed police to testify about his reaction and demeanor when they interrogated him about his wife's death.

Mr. Wallace was convicted of murder in the Dec. 13, 1990, slaying of his third wife, Kimberly Wallace, in an elaborate plot that began in Cobb County and ended near Waycross.

Two co-defendants, Mr. Wallace's personal lawyer, Michael A. Glean of Farmington and a friend, Frederick Steven Speas of Middleburg, also were convicted of murder in the case.

All three men are serving life prison terms for the slaying.

A fourth man -- preacher Jeremiah Lee -- also charged with murder in the case was acquitted.

The 1992 trial, held in Waycross with jurors from Bibb County, was broadcast nationwide on Court TV.

Trial evidence and testimony revealed that the slaying occurred while the Wallaces battled each other in an acrimonious divorce.

Mr. Wallace has denied his involvement in the killing. Yesterday, he blamed Mr. Geer for botching his defense.

Judge Newton, who heard the appeal, will not rule on whether a new trial is warranted until he reviews testimony from Mr. Wallace and other witnesses.

Mr. Wallace's defense attorney, Glenn Richardson of Dallas told Judge Newton that Mr. Geer failed to properly prepare Mr. Wallace's defense, which led to his being unjustly and wrongfully convicted of Mrs. Wallace's murder.

Mr. Geer, who died of cancer in 1997, was Georgia lieutenant governor from 1963 to '67.

District Attorney Rick Currie, who helped prosecute Mr. Wallace in the slaying, said there were no reversible errors committed during his trial.

Mr. Geer defended Mr. Wallace vigorously and properly, Mr. Currie told the judge.

"The law says a defendant is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial. Dr. Wallace got a fair trial," Mr. Currie said.

Earlier, Mr. Wallace testified that he hired Mr. Geer at the recommendation of Gov. Roy Barnes. At that time, Mr. Barnes was his civil attorney, Mr. Wallace said.

Mr. Wallace said he paid Mr. Geer $75,000 plus expenses to take his case. He also hired a private investigator -- who also is dead.