Former Augusta lawyer and convicted murderer William Lumpkin has until Thursday to try to persuade a federal judge to change his mind about an appeal.
Mr. Lumpkin, 53, filed a habeas corpus petition - a challenge to the legality of punishment - in U.S. District Court alleging his rights are being violated in a state appeal because it has dragged on for nearly a year without action.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge W. Leon Barfield has recommended that Mr. Lumpkin's petition be dismissed. That opinion will be forwarded to U.S. District Chief Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. next week unless Mr. Lumpkin or Georgia's attorney general files written objects by Thursday.
Mr. Lumpkin faced a possible death sentence in Richmond County Superior Court when a jury convicted him of murder on Feb. 23, 1999. Rather than risk a jury deciding his fate, Mr. Lumpkin consented to the verdict that he killed Martinez real estate agent Stan White, 64, on Sept. 2, 1996. Mr. Lumpkin also agreed to accept a sentence of life without the possibility of parole and waived all appeals.
But in his state habeas petition filed last November, Mr. Lumpkin asserts he would never have accepted the verdict and agreed to the lifetime in prison had he known his initial trial attorney, G. Terry Jackson of Savannah, had been having an affair with Mr. Lumpkin's wife. Mr. Jackson denies the allegation.
Among the alleged trial errors Mr. Lumpkin believes he should now be allowed to challenge are allegations investigators and prosecutors withheld certain physical evidence from examination by defense experts.
But after nearly a year without progress in the state habeas case, Mr. Lumpkin alleges in his federal petition, the evidence is deteriorating and further examination might not be possible. Mr. Lumpkin asks in his federal petition for an order to protect the evidence, a section of carpet padding with a blood stain and a box of plastic wrap.
Judge Barfield wrote in his recommendation that the federal court cannot entertain Mr. Lumpkin's petition because the state habeas petition is pending. The time lag in state court is not an exceptional delay, Judge Barfield wrote, and Mr. Lumpkin did not present any argument or evidence that any court has ever issue an order to protect evidence such as Mr. Lumpkin requested.
Mr. Lumpkin was arrested on murder and theft charges on Sept. 9, 1996, four days after Mr. White's body was discovered in the Savannah River near Allendale, S.C., and one week after Mr. White was killed in Mr. Lumpkin's downtown Augusta law office.
Prosecutors contended Mr. Lumpkin killed Mr. White to obtain and forge the only copy of a contract the men shared regarding the purchase of Mr. Lumpkin's home in Evans. Mr. White, his family reported, intended to evict Mr. Lumpkin from the home when the contract expired without the agreed-to final payment just days after his death.