EATONTON, Ga. — A state corrections official testified Tuesday afternoon in Putnam County Superior Court in Eatonton that there have been several disciplinary problems with Ricky Dubose since he has been incarcerated.
Ahmed Holt, who serves as field director of operations for the Georgia Department of Corrections, said various behavioral incidents had resulted in Dubose being moved to Special Management Unit or what he called SMU.
Two such incidents involved Dubose reportedly throwing urine on a corrections officer, and later setting fire to his cell.
Holt described those two incidents as happening on the same day in December 2017, just a few months after Dubose and his co-defendant, Donnie Rowe, reportedly shot to death two corrections officers aboard a state prison transport bus in Putnam County and then made a daring daylight escape.
More than two dozen other state inmates were on board the bus at the time of those crimes.
The murders of Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica happened June 13, 2017 and led to a nationwide manhunt that ended in Rutherford County, Tenn. after the inmates surrendered to a man and his son before they were turned over to local, state and federal authorities.
As a result of those disciplinary incidents and others, Holt said the SMU, which had been overseen by a superintendent, is now overseen by a warden. He also said there are additional specially-trained personnel to deal with behavioral problems by inmates.
Many new transportation measures also are now in place regarding inmates being taken from the facility to court proceedings across the state, just like in the case of Dubose.
Pre-trial hearings are underway this week for both men.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley is seeking the death penalty against both Dubose and Rowe – both of whom are slated for separate trials later this year. The district attorney is being assisted in the prosecution of the two men by Chief Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin, and Assistant District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale.
Jurors for both trials will be selected respectively from Glynn and Grady counties, but both trials will be held in Putnam County.
Under questioning by Barksdale, Holt said there are approximately 125 inmates at SMU.
Holt said those SMU inmates were deemed a danger to staff, other inmates and even to themselves.
“They could not be managed at other facilities,” Holt said.
Some of those inmates have threatened homicide, threatened to harm GDC staff, attempted to escape, etc., Holt pointed out during Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing held before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Alison T. Burleson.
Holt said state corrections officials choose to manage inmates with those kinds of behavioral problems at the SMU because the staff is better trained to handle situations like those.
Certain policies are set in motion for those inmates when they are transported to and from court appearances, Holt said.
For instance, Dubose is under tight security each and every time he appears in Putnam County Superior Court. Not only is Dubose being closely watched by members of the GDC’s Interdiction Response Team, but also by deputies and detectives with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, along with Sheriff Howard Sills.
Barksdale later asked Holt questions related to security measures that GDC has in place now regarding Dubose, as well as during trial proceedings.
The assistant district attorney specifically asked Holt about the use of stun cuffs.
Barksdale asked Holt if it would be his recommendation that stun cuffs be placed on Dubose during the course of his upcoming trial to prevent any threat to any court officials, law enforcement officers or anyone in the courtroom.
Holt said he would recommend that stun cuffs be used in the Dubose case, because he considered Dubose to be a high-risk inmate.
Several times while Barksdale was asking questions of Holt, one of Dubose’s defense attorneys, Amber Pittman, objected. But she was overruled by Burleson.
One of the reasons Pittman objected to Holt answering some the states’ questions was based on Holt not being qualified as an expert.
“That’s inappropriate,” Pittman contended.
Holt went on to say that from his personal knowledge about Dubose that he considered Dubose one of the top and most dangerous inmates within the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Holt also urged the court to authorize the use of stun cuffs and any other security measures deemed necessary to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Barksdale later called Sills to testify about the use of stun cuffs and other security measures that he plans to have in place during the trials of both Dubose and Rowe.
One of the first things Sills did was to describe what stun cuffs are and exactly how they are used.
Stun cuffs are a small electrical device with two metal probes, Sills said.
They can be attached to the ankle of a defendant or to one of their arms, he added.
The device is battery operated.
Once charged, a “fire button” can simply be pushed thus sending an 80,000 volt shock to the person wearing it that lasts two to three seconds, Sills said.
Newer models can last as long as five seconds.
“That’s the gist of the device,” Sills said.
Stun cuffs restrict the mobility of the person wearing them should the device need to be activated by a person in law enforcement.
Sills demonstrated it in open court, utilizing Detective Darrell Turk as a defendant.
Turk, who had been seated near the prosecution table, bolted from his seat at Sills’ command, jumped the railing that separates court officials from those in the court gallery, and then ran towards the double front doors of the courtroom.
Turk later returned to the front of the courtroom where his leg brace was activated and he had limited mobility.
Sills said he believes stun cuffs will not be needed provided he continues to have the type of security he currently has had from GDC, as well as from personnel within his own department.
“We will have adequate security here,” Sills vowed.
Pre-trial motions will once again be taken up on Wednesday morning in the Dubose case.