Originally created 12/17/05

Fair trial impossible in area, lawyers say



Attorneys for an Atlanta area dentist accused of murder in Augusta and Gwinnett County told a judge Friday that their client's indictment was so delayed they doubt he can get a fair trial in Richmond County.

Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. took under advisement the motions filed on behalf of Dr. Barton Corbin, of Dacula, Ga.

The defense attorneys want the murder indictment dismissed and tried Friday to persuade Judge Brown that the 14-year interval between the deaths of Dorothy "Dolly" Hearn in Augusta and Dr. Corbin's wife Jennifer in 2004 confuses the case.

Last month, the defense asked the judge to prohibit District Attorney Danny Craig from presenting evidence in the Hearn case that was gathered in Gwinnett County, where Dr. Corbin faces murder charges in the Dec. 22 death of his estranged wife. Dr. Corbin has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

"There haven't been two murders," defense attorney David Wolfe said.

He argued nothing has changed since June 1990, when Ms. Hearn's shooting death was labeled a suicide and the "unfortunate death" last year of Mrs. Corbin.

Mrs. Corbin, like Ms. Hearn - a past girlfriend - was found dead in her home with a bullet wound to her head and a handgun lying nearby.

Mr. Craig argued Dr. Corbin must stand trial for Ms. Hearn's killing because the defense cannot prove that the passage of time has prejudiced the case against Dr. Corbin or that the state purposely created the delay to gain a tactical advantage.

The state did not anticipate Dr. Corbin's involvement in a second killing, nor did it purposefully wait to formally accuse him of killing Ms. Hearn, Mr. Craig said.

As was true at the last hearing for Dr. Corbin, relatives and friends of both Ms. Hearn, 27, and Mrs. Corbin, 33, attended Friday's hearing. Dr. Corbin's family also attended.

Judge Brown did not indicate when he might rule on the motions. A tentative trial date of Jan. 9 has been set, but Mr. Craig has asked Judge Brown to delay the Richmond County trial until the case in Gwinnett County is completed. Judge Brown also has that motion under advisement.

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

What's Next

A motions hearing for Dr. Barton Corbin is scheduled for Feb. 17 in Gwinnett County Superior Court. His trial has been set for April 17 in the Atlanta suburb.