Originally created 05/24/00

Jury acquits suspect on four of five charges



Convicted rapist Roosevelt Palmer beat almost all criminal charges Tuesday - all but one.

After two hours of deliberations, the Richmond County Superior Court jury acquitted him of four of five criminal charges, finding him guilty only of kidnapping.

The alleged victims and their family members grunted with frustration as the not guilty verdicts were announced, causing Assistant District Attorney Ashley Wright to turn toward the audience and mouth, "It's OK."

From the prosecutor's point of view the verdict was good.

Mr. Palmer, 39, a former Augusta employee until his arrest last summer on charges he broke into three homes, attempted rape twice and kidnapped the last time, July 22, is a convicted rapist.

In 1979, Mr. Palmer was convicted of rape in Richmond County Superior Court. He was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by five years on parole.

Tuesday's kidnapping conviction is his second violent felony conviction, Ms. Wright said. As such, he must receive the maximum penalty - life - and serve it without parole, she explained.

Ms. Wright and defense attorney Leon Larke left the courtroom Tuesday shaking their heads at the inconsistent verdict.

As the final witness to testify at his trial, Mr. Palmer told the jury that he had met a teen-age girl the week before he went to her home July 22 at about 2 a.m. and was allowed inside by the girl. After his arrest, he initially told police he never went to the girl's home. He then said he happened to drive by the girl's house as she sat on the porch and they began talking and she invited him inside.

The girl testified Monday that she was awakened from sleep that night when someone began choking her. The assailant picked her up and carried her to a door that led outside. Her father, awakened by the girl's screams, chased the man he later identified as Mr. Palmer from the house and tussled with him outside.

Three months earlier, an Augusta woman reported she had been asleep in her bed when she was awakened by someone choking her from behind and pulling on her pants. The woman did not see her attacker, but investigators later discovered Mr. Palmer's fingerprints at her home.

Mr. Palmer also faces burglary and attempted rape charges in a June 12 assault. A trial date has not been set in that case.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.