Originally created 06/02/06

Augustan's death can be evidence in trial

ATLANTA - The Georgia Supreme Court denied an appeal from the attorneys of Barton Corbin to block evidence surrounding the death of an Augusta woman nearly 16 years ago.

The court ruled that testimony in the case of Dorothy "Dolly" Hearn, Dr. Corbin's former girlfriend who was found shot to death in her Augusta apartment in 1990, could be heard at his upcoming murder trial in Gwinnett County. The former dentist is also accused of killing his wife, Jennifer Corbin, who died of a gunshot wound in 2004 at the couple's suburban Atlanta home.

The high court's move not to become involved in the issue means Dr. Corbin's trial in Gwinnett County probably will start in September as scheduled.

Dr. Corbin will be tried in Richmond County after the Gwinnett County proceedings are done. Augusta prosecutors filed murder charges in Ms. Hearn's death, which initially was ruled a suicide, shortly after Dr. Corbin's arrest in Gwinnett County two years ago.

Dr. Corbin has pleaded not guilty in both cases, and his lawyers have said both deaths were suicides.

His attorneys argued unsuccessfully to a trial court judge that Ms. Hearn's death should not be allowed to be a factor in the Gwinnett County proceedings because witnesses' recollections have changed after so many years. Dr. Corbin's attorneys have another week to file a motion for the state supreme court to reconsider taking up the appeal.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said presenting the similarities between the deaths of Ms. Hearn and Mrs. Corbin is important to the case he plans to make to jurors, but not essential.

"I've always said I was willing to go forward with my case standing on its own," he said. "I think this adds additional information for the jury to consider the murder here (in Gwinnett County)."

Dr. Corbin's attorney, David Wolfe, did not return calls Thursday.

Ron Carlson, a law professor at the University of Georgia, said Dr. Corbin's attorneys now face a more difficult challenge convincing jurors the two deaths were unrelated.

He said it is not uncommon for the Georgia Supreme Court to avoid weighing in on pretrial appeals.

"What they're telling the defense is try your case, and if you lose, appeal after the conviction," he said.


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