Originally created 09/11/06

Wheels of justice start turning in dentist case



ATLANTA - It has been nearly two years since Jennifer Corbin's 7-year-old son found his mother shot to death in her bedroom.

Initially ruled a suicide, her death led investigators to her husband, suburban Gwinnett County dentist Barton Corbin. It also prompted authorities in Augusta to reopen the case of the 1990 death of Dr. Corbin's dental-school girlfriend, Dolly Hearn, and re-examine his possible role.

Both women were found shot once in the head, a gun lying nearby, and Ms. Hearn's death also was initially ruled a suicide.

Dr. Corbin now faces murder charges in both cases.

Opening statements will be made later this month in Dr. Corbin's first trial - for his wife's death. Prosecutors plan to present evidence of Ms. Hearn's death during the trial.

Jury selection started late last week and is expected to last two weeks as 650 Gwinnett County residents have been summoned as prospective jurors.

District Attorney Danny Porter said he expects his case to take about two weeks to present.

The bulk of the state's evidence is paper, not physical, and Mr. Porter said he could call more than two dozen witnesses.

Gwinnett prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, as their case does not meet the criteria, Mr. Porter said. However, if Dr. Corbin is convicted in Gwinnett County, he would be eligible for the death penalty in Richmond County.

Dr. Corbin's lead attorney, Bruce Harvey, didn't return repeated telephone messages last week.

National media are to cover the trial. Mr. Porter said he has spoken to Court TV, People magazine and the television program Inside Edition. Dr. Corbin's attorneys have asked for a change of venue because of all the attention.

Dr. Corbin was first indicted by a Richmond County grand jury on charges of felony and malice murder in Ms. Hearn's death less than three weeks after Jennifer Corbin's death Dec. 4, 2004. Weeks later, a Gwinnett County grand jury indicted him on charges of felony murder and a firearms violation in the death of his wife.

Members of the Hearn family have said they will attend the Gwinnett County trial.

"The family spent the first 14 years after Dolly's death with little or no hope for justice," they said in a statement. "Although we have always been confident of the circumstances surrounding her death, we deeply regret that a second tragedy had to occur to reveal this truth."

Ms. Hearn, a 27-year-old dental student at the Medical College of Georgia, was found dead, a .38-caliber handgun in her lap, in July 1990. She and Dr. Corbin were classmates and had dated for more than a year but were in the midst of a breakup at the time.