ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday overturned the murder conviction of a Randolph County businessman in an arson-for-hire case.
The court said the state proved Raymond F. Everritt participated in a conspiracy to burn down his own gas station in Shellman, about 20 miles northwest of Albany, to collect insurance money, but failed to prove he was part of a conspiracy later to kill one of the arsonists - Roosevelt Cox.
Cox was killed in 1992. Everritt was charged and convicted nine years later.
In its summary of the case, the Supreme Court said Everritt was experiencing financial problems and agreed to pay James McDuffie $5,000 to burn down the station. McDuffie hired Cox to help him for $1,500.
The insurance company, citing suspicions, refused to pay for years and, in the meantime, Cox began telling friends he was owed money for the job, the court said.
To silence him, McDuffie lured Cox into his shop in 1992 and killed him with an ax, disposing of the body in some woods, the court said.
McDuffie, who was charged along with Everritt, died one month before he was due to be tried. Everritt was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed.
The state argued that Cox's murder was necessary to conceal the conspiracy to commit arson and that Everritt, therefore, should be deemed responsible.
The Supreme Court did not agree,
"Under the facts of this case, it cannot be said that the murder of Cox could be reasonably seen as a necessary, probably consequence of the conspiracy to commit arson," the court held.
"Simply put, a conspiracy to commit arson, without more, does not naturally, necessarily and probably result in the murder of one coconspirator by another," the court held.
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