Columbia County jury frees man once convicted of killing mother

Friday, July 17, 2009 12:52 PM
Last updated 10:51 PM
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A Martinez man convicted in the 2003 slaying of his mother was acquitted Friday in Columbia County after a five-day retrial.

Tom Edwin Chumley gestures while testifying in his retrial for the murder of his mother,  Meredith Pete Guy, 74, who was found dead in her Twin Lakes Drive home on Feb. 28, 2003. Chumley was originally convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison plus five years in 2005 but the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction in January.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Tom Edwin Chumley gestures while testifying in his retrial for the murder of his mother, Meredith Pete Guy, 74, who was found dead in her Twin Lakes Drive home on Feb. 28, 2003. Chumley was originally convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison plus five years in 2005 but the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction in January.

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 claimed the stress of being publicly named a suspect, marital and business problems and acute bi polar 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 of 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.

Comments (46) Add comment
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mad_max
1
Points
mad_max 07/17/09 - 12:06 pm
0
1
Hmmm......undeniably guilty.

Hmmm......undeniably guilty. Where did CC scrape this jury up from? Did they use an RC juror list? He confessed! Our judicial system, and the people who participate in it, including jurors, has lost it's collective mind. Hey folks. If your old momma is getting to be a pain in the butt, just take her to CC and put her down. You can confess and still get off.

easy breezy
14
Points
easy breezy 07/17/09 - 12:06 pm
0
1
What? Crazy!!

What? Crazy!!

bone
23
Points
bone 07/17/09 - 12:09 pm
0
1
i'm speechless.

i'm speechless.

Riverman1
94246
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Riverman1 07/17/09 - 12:28 pm
0
1
What happened to the DA's

What happened to the DA's case? Unreal.

Native007
4
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Native007 07/17/09 - 12:32 pm
0
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This happens all of the time.

This happens all of the time. The judge dropped the ball on this one.

JohnQPublic
5
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JohnQPublic 07/17/09 - 12:36 pm
1
0
Sit back and watch...he'll do

Sit back and watch...he'll do something stupid and end up back in jail. It may not be in a minute but it will happen. The hands of justice may grind slow but they grind fine.

zippy
250
Points
zippy 07/17/09 - 12:41 pm
1
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it is funny how people can

it is funny how people can comment on how this can happen when they actually know nothing about the facts of the case or how the evidence was presented. THere is nothing to suggest that "the judge dropped the ball" or that something happened to the DA's case. Perhaps it was a really weak case except for a confession that was tainted. It very well could be that the first jury didn't do their job and truely listen to the evidence and consider the actual guilt or innocense of the accused. Everyone is ready to suggest that since the result was a "not guilty" that someone messed up. Sometimes that might be the correct result. I wasn't there, I don't know; however, i bet you were not there and you don't know either.

jaschild
9
Points
jaschild 07/17/09 - 12:45 pm
0
1
so... you can get away with

so... you can get away with murder.

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 12:46 pm
1
0
Zippy, the Georgia Supreme

Zippy, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded, "Mr. Chumley was undeniably guilty of the crime, but that Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet’s comments were prejudicial to the jury." To me, that's pretty clear that Overstreet messed up at the first trial and that the DA messed up this time.

The Ode
2
Points
The Ode 07/17/09 - 12:49 pm
1
0
I figured it was because he

I figured it was because he was a non-minority and we all know our judical system is prejudiced.

americafirst
1001
Points
americafirst 07/17/09 - 12:56 pm
1
0
the Supreme Court never said

the Supreme Court never said that he was "undeniably" guilty. The paper screws up again. I just read the opinion. As in all cases the appellate court reviews the evidence to determine if it was sufficient to support a guilty verdict assuming the jury chose to beleive it. That's all the court found. If they had not, they would not have awarded him a new trial, they would have dismised the case instead. Since they found sufficent evidence the relief to the defendant for the errors in the trial court is a new trial not an acquittal.

Little Lamb
49247
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Little Lamb 07/17/09 - 01:04 pm
1
0
Thank you, AmericaFirst. I

Thank you, AmericaFirst. I hope Valerie Rowell's editor takes the time to actually read the Supreme Court's ruling and changes the biased text in Rowell's article before it hits print tomorrow morning.

overdose
0
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overdose 07/17/09 - 01:25 pm
0
1
Is it worse to be a murderer

Is it worse to be a murderer or an attorney who works and succeeds at setting a murderer free?

Riverman1
94246
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Riverman1 07/17/09 - 01:34 pm
0
1
What this is about is if his

What this is about is if his confessions on tape should have been admitted. Before the confessions were presented to the jury, the judge should have ruled on the defense's contention that the defendant confessed due to depression. It is a two step process. The man confessed. The court actually said in reference to the confessions being admitted, "Construing this evidence most strongly in support of the verdicts, it was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find proof beyond a resonable doubt that Chumley was guilty of malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of that crime."

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 01:36 pm
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1
So my question is this. If

So my question is this. If the Supreme Court explained that a two step process to admit the confessions was basically all that was lacking, what happened this time?

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 02:12 pm
1
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I just talked to someone

I just talked to someone about this trial. I'll backtrack a bit. The mercy factor may have come into play with jury nullification. The man may not have been as bad as I originally thought.

HillGuy
8
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HillGuy 07/17/09 - 02:18 pm
1
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white trash man guilty of

white trash man guilty of matricide gets off scott free... Disgusting

cj
1
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cj 07/17/09 - 02:29 pm
1
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Overdose, to answer your

Overdose, to answer your question, just like justice is served by convicting the guilty, justice is equally served by aquitting the innocent. I hope that you were being sarcastic and that you are not really as uneducated as your comment suggests. But if you are that uneducated, the theory behind our judicial system is that the fact finder (judge and/or jury) is able to better discern the truth by listening to two opposing sides, presented through lawyers, as officers of the court. Our country decided long ago that if the government charges one with a crime, he or she is presumed innocent. The lawyer has done nothing but the honorable act of defending the Constitution and your rights.

americafirst
1001
Points
americafirst 07/17/09 - 02:37 pm
1
0
Riverman, you misread the

Riverman, you misread the opinion. There was no question the confessions were admissable. The court reversed his conviction because the trial judge should not have given the instructions to the jury that he gave. He should have not given any instructions at all concerning the confessions but should have just admitted the confessions into evidence. The instructions supposedly could have mislead the jury into thinking they had to accept them despite the defense's contention that they were not accurate and the result of severe depression.

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 02:50 pm
1
0
Americafirst..I basically

Americafirst..I basically agree with what you are saying. Thanks for the link. Let me ask this. What if there was a possibility of this being a mercy killing? Do you think it could have been jury nullification? See what I mean?

lowellbrown
4
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lowellbrown 07/17/09 - 02:54 pm
1
0
Thanks, America First and

Thanks, America First and Zippy, for suggesting that we actually read the court's decision. The idea that the the Georgia Supreme Court would have declared the defendant guilty while reversing the guilty judgment seemed strange, to say the least. What they actually said,essentially, was that it didn't matter what they thought of the first verdict. This is all about what the appeals process is for, what defense attorneys are for and what second trials are for.

concernmom
403
Points
concernmom 07/17/09 - 03:17 pm
0
1
This is too bizarre- the man

This is too bizarre- the man admitted to murdering his mother- if this happened in any other country he would have been put to death! I am disgusted- he should have life in prison, period.

dougmo
12
Points
dougmo 07/17/09 - 03:57 pm
0
1
Way to go Judge Overstreet,

Way to go Judge Overstreet, you managed to screw up again.

HillGuy
8
Points
HillGuy 07/17/09 - 04:20 pm
0
1
Overstreet is a doofus.

Overstreet is a doofus.

jacobwriggsly
1
Points
jacobwriggsly 07/17/09 - 04:35 pm
0
1
[filtered word]???? even the supreme

[filtered word]???? even the supreme court said he was guilty when they granted a new trial. jeez---sure this wasn't richmond cnty?

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 07/17/09 - 04:45 pm
1
0
We are talking a murder

We are talking a murder trial. Assuming this is not a case of the jury believing this is a mercy killing, this has to be the greatest string of legal foul-ups since the Harlem teacher killed the student and only spent a few years in prison. Overstreet erred and the DA lost a monumental case or the first jury was the dumbest one around by convicting the man of murder. Trust me, it ain't the last. The GA Supreme Court believed Chumley was clearly guilty and spelled out what was improper. See my 2:34 post. How in the world did the DA lose the case today knowing exactly what fouled up the first trial?

HillGuy
8
Points
HillGuy 07/17/09 - 04:48 pm
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jacobwriggsly, you are

jacobwriggsly, you are right.. they must have gone to Richmond CO to find the idiots that composed this jury.

jacobwriggsly
1
Points
jacobwriggsly 07/17/09 - 04:58 pm
0
1
duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, didn't he confess?

americafirst
1001
Points
americafirst 07/17/09 - 05:34 pm
1
0
Riverman. Idk. I only know

Riverman. Idk. I only know what I read in the paper and in the opinion. But from where they found her, it doesn't sound like a mercy killing.

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