Originally created 09/29/05

Lawyers want charge dropped



Attorneys for Barton Corbin have asked a Richmond County Superior Court judge to throw out the indictment against him in the 1990 death of Dolly Hearn.

According to motions posted Wednesday in the Clerk of Superior Court's office, Dr. Corbin's attorneys argue that the state unjustifiably waited too long to indict him.

"This delay has substantially prejudiced Dr. Corbin's ability to present a defense to the charges," the motion reads.

The Gwinnett County dentist came under increased suspicion after his estranged wife, Jennifer Corbin, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in late 2004 in her Buford, Ga., home.

Mrs. Corbin, 33, was reportedly trying to end her marriage, and Dr. Corbin had filed for divorce days before she was found dead.

Initially, Mrs. Corbin's death was determined to be a suicide - as was Ms. Hearn's.

Ms. Hearn, a girlfriend of Dr. Corbin while both were at Medical College of Georgia's School of Dentistry, was found dead at her home on Parrish Road in June 1990. The case was initially listed as a suicide but remained open until Mrs. Corbin's death.

Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Danny Craig made the first move, submitting a murder indictment against Dr. Corbin before a grand jury in December 2004.

His Gwinnett County colleague, Danny Porter, followed suit with an indictment days later in Mrs. Corbin's death.

The Georgia Supreme Court has often dealt with trial delay as an issue on appeal. In June, the court rejected the appeal of a man convicted in 2002 of murdering an off-duty police officer 27 years earlier in metro Atlanta.

The justices wrote that a delay is a violation of a constitutional right if it caused actual prejudice to the defense and if the prosecution deliberately caused the delay seeking a tactical advantage.

Dr. Corbin's attorneys allege that the passage of time prevents him from proving that Ms. Hearn committed suicide.

"The state has conceded to the defense that it has lost valuable and potentially exculpatory evidence," the motion reads.

Witnesses who were interviewed by police in 1990 "have curiously added information to their statements or have had epiphanies since December 2004," the attorneys allege.

They also say news coverage has tainted the jury pool.

"The decision to now prosecute Dr. Corbin was made based solely on what was perceived as a more favorable climate for his conviction; not upon any new evidence," the motion reads.

Dr. Corbin's attorneys have also filed a motion to bar provisions from the Georgia Criminal Justice Act of 2005 from being applicable in the trial for Ms. Hearn's death. The act, put into effect in July, gives an equal number of strikes during jury selection to prosecutors and defendants. Before, defendants had more strikes. The law also gives the prosecution the right to conclude closing statements at trial.

Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this article.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.

The Case


Background: Barton Corbin, a dentist from metro Atlanta and a Medical College of Georgia graduate, was indicted in 2004 in the 1990 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend Dolly Hearn. The case lingered with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office until Dr. Corbin's estranged wife, Jennifer, was found dead in her Buford, Ga., home in December.

DEVELOPMENTS: Defense attorneys are asking a judge to throw out the indictment in Ms. Hearn's death, arguing that the state unjustifiably waited too long to indict Dr. Corbin in the 1990 death. They also want the judge to bar provisions of Georgia's Criminal Justice Act of 2005, which gives prosecutors the same number of strikes in jury selection as defense attorneys have, among other changes.

WHAT'S NEXT? Judge Carl Brown Jr. must now rule on the motions.