In an order signed two days before he retires from the bench, Superior Court Judge Neal W. Dickert ruled that Jarman L. Harold and Charles D. Winter were entitled to retrials.
Judge Dickert denied the same requests made by co-defendants Carlton W. Coleman Jr., Ronald Coleman Jr., Kendric Dudley and Ronnie B. Overton Jr.
Each of the defendants was indicted on a charge of violating the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. The two Mr. Colemans, who are not related, faced additional charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and burglary in the robbery and abduction of Mr. Holt in June 1998.
The RICO count included aspects of crimes committed against Ryan J. Singh and Manuel B. Arroyo, whose remains were found in the trunk of a burning car in Warren County in July 1997.
Judge Dickert inherited the case from Senior Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr., who presided over the joint trial of all six men in the fall of 2001.
Judge Dickert rejected most of the defendants' issues concerning the fairness of various aspects of the trial.
But the judge ruled that one issue mandated a new trial for Mr. Harold and Mr. Winter: the prosecutor's use of one of Carlton Coleman's statements during his closing argument to the jury. The statement was never introduced as evidence during the trial.
"It should be noted that in no way does this court conclude or believe that the prosecutor intentionally or through bad faith read this statement," Judge Dickert wrote.
He noted that the trial consumed two months, 34 volumes of testimony and many exhibits.
It appeared to be an innocent mistake but one that prejudiced Mr. Harold and Mr. Winter, the judge ruled.
In the statement, Carlton Coleman said he believed either Mr. Harold or Mr. Winter was involved in the double homicide of Mr. Singh and Mr. Arroyo.
District Attorney Danny Craig said Tuesday that because the other defendants will likely continue to appeal their convictions, he will appeal Judge Dickert's ruling.
The next step in the appellate process is the state Court of Appeals.
The two Mr. Colemans were sentenced to life in prison plus 65 years. Mr. Harold, Mr. Winter, Mr. Dudley and Mr. Overton were each sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison for the RICO convictions.
The slayings of Mr. Holt, Mr. Singh and Mr. Arroyo were considered unsolved by law enforcement until the March 2001 indictment of the six defendants. Murder charges have never been pursued in Aiken County, where Mr. Holt's body was found in the trunk of his burning car, or in Warren County, where Mr. Singh and Mr. Arroyo's remains were discovered.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.