In March 2005, a jury convicted Tom Edwin Chumley, 59, of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The Georgia Supreme Court granted Mr. Chumley a new trial in January 2008 after ruling that a comment made by Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet in the first trial was prejudicial to the jury.
"We're thrilled," attorney Pete Theodocion said. "He's been in jail for almost five years. He's got a young daughter. He got his life back. We're real happy."
Mr. Chumley was indicted on murder and weapons charges in April 2004 after authorities said he confessed to shooting Meredith "Pete" Guy, 74, who was found dead in her Twin Lakes Drive home Feb. 28, 2003. An autopsy revealed she died of two .22-caliber gunshot wounds to her upper back and head.
Martha Mantlow, Mr. Chumley's sister, said she expected the acquittal because of the jury's four-hour deliberation.
"They were taking too long. They came back in two hours the last time," she said as her two daughters cried after the verdict was announced. "I think there were too many lies. Lies that weren't countered. They (the jury) only got presented what they heard, and a lot of it was lies. It is what it is."
Mr. Chumley turned himself in to police in April 2004 and made two videotaped statements confessing to the murder.
During the retrial, Mr. Theodocion acknowledged the confessions were voluntarily made, but he said they were false.
On the witness stand, Mr. Chumley denied the crime. His attorney said the stress of being publicly named a suspect, marital and business problems and acute bipolar disorder made him confess.
During the 2005 trial, Judge Overstreet noted in his comments to the jury that the confessions were made voluntarily. The state Supreme Court concluded they should have been presented without comment.
District Attorney Ashley Wright apologized to Ms. Guy's family after Friday's verdict.
Judge Overstreet, who presided over the retrial, wouldn't allow testimony from two of Ms. Wright's rebuttal witnesses, including one who claimed he was formerly incarcerated with Mr. Chumley.
The man was going to testify that Mr. Chumley admitted he shot his mother as a "mercy killing" because she was ill.
The judge said allowing the witness to testify would have been unfair.
Mr. Chumley was released from the Columbia County Detention Center on Friday afternoon.
Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.