Michael Seth Perrault joined Wednesday afternoon’s hearing by Zoom from the Georgia Diagnostic Prison near Jackson.

SPARTA, Ga. — Defense attorneys representing convicted murderer Michael Seth Perrault in the shooting death of his wife are seeking a new trial.

Perrault, an ex-patrol officer with the Eatonton Police Department, was convicted of killing his wife Amanda at their Lake Oconee home in Putnam County on Feb. 3, 2020. The couple lived on Long Island Drive.

He was subsequently indicted Nov. 3, 2020, and stood trial Feb. 21-25, 2022.

Perrault is serving a life sentence after being convicted by a jury in Putnam County Superior Court in the killing

A jury found Perrault guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and simple battery.

Amanda died from a single gunshot to the head. Her body was found in the bed of the couple’s master bedroom.

Authorities found a magazine to the pistol used in the shooting in Amanda’s right hand. The gun was found about a foot and a half from her left foot.

The scene didn’t match up with suicide, authorities said.

During voluntary questioning of Perrault after the shooting, the ex-police officer told Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills that “none of this would have happened” had she not originally called the Putnam County Sheriff's Office on him and had him arrested for battery a few days earlier.

Authorities discovered during the investigation that Amanda had been the victim of domestic abuse for several years.

A motion for a new trial was filed Aug. 26, by Perrault’s new attorneys, Robert L. Sirianni Jr. and George W. Thomas, of Brownstone, an appellate litigation law firm.

Defense attorneys were granted a hearing before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda H. Trammell on Wednesday afternoon. The hearing was held in Hancock County Superior Court in Sparta.

As of Friday morning, a ruling still had not been handed down by the judge concerning the request for a new trial.

The defense team and their client joined the hearing via Zoom conference, while Trammell and Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III attended the hearing in person. Barksdale was joined by Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills, who investigated the case, assisted the prosecution team, and testified during the murder trial.

Sirianni presented the defense’s request for a new trial.

“I can see in the courtroom that Sheriff Sills is again sitting at the counsel’s table with (D.A.) Barksdale, so I think I’d like to lead off with an excerpt from the motions hearing, dated Feb. 11, 2022,” Sirianni said. “I think it’s appropriate to lead off with this brief transcript rendition and set the stage for the basis for the center of our two arguments on the amended motion for a new trial.”

Sirianni referenced the fact that Barksdale invoked the rule of sequestration during that hearing to exclude all witnesses from the courtroom except for Sills.

The defense attorney said at the time that Barksdale asked the court to allow the lead prosecutor to remain at the prosecution table with attorneys.

“And in this context, the lead prosecutor that he is referring to is not himself, but Sheriff Sills,” Sirianni said. 

The defense attorney asked why would you ask that Sills remain in the courtroom when he was going to be called during the trial as a witness.

Perrault’s lead defense attorney at the time, Bethany Laviango, immediately objected.

Even so, Sills was allowed by the court to stay in the courtroom throughout the entire trial.

“That leads us to the center of our argument and change of venue,” Sirianni said.

The first argument related to Sills’ conduct during the trial.

“He was a witness; he was an investigator; he was the sheriff, and according to attorney Barksdale and the court, he was assumed to be the lead prosecutor,” Sirianni said. “And as the evidence will show, and we’re going to argue also, he served the role as medical examiner in the case.”

 The defense attorney said the venue was not proper either.

“It should have been moved prior to trial,” Sirianni said.

In the motion for a new trial, defense attorneys cited numerous public statements made by Sills, including interviews with media representatives, where he referred to Michael Seth Perrault as a killer.

“In one of those interviews, he actually makes comments on the fact that Mr. Perrault had engaged in his right to remain silent, and again this all occurred during the pre-trial phases of the investigation,” Sirianni said. “We believe that under the circumstances it was unfair for Mr. Perrault to obtain a fair trial in the county.”

Sirianni said the trial was corrupted by press coverage. He again referred to Sills’ comments about Perrault being labeled a killer and murderer for more than two years.

“And that two years of coverage was not corrected, even though the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) medical examiner had ruled the incident a suicide, and even after the incident was ruled a suicide by the GBI and the chief medical examiner, Sheriff Sills never, not once, corrected himself in a public forum to correct the statement that Mr. Perrault was innocent until proven guilty and that he, indeed, was not a murderer, but that issue should be tried by the jury,” Sirianni said.

Sirianni said he and his co-counsel believe such pretrial statements were improper and that they violated Perrault’s due process.

As a result of Sills’ comments, Perrault did not receive a fair trial, the defense attorney said.

Sirianni also raised the fact that Sills took the alleged murder weapon, a Smith & Wesson .380-cal. BodyGuard pistol, and conducted his own firing experiments.

In addition to such, Sills bought a replica weapon so that the district attorney and others could experiment with it.

“However on page 249 of the transcript, (Putnam County Sheriff’s Office) Detective (Chris) Harper is the person who seals the weapon in a paper bag,” Sirianni said.

The defense attorney questioned the chain of custody in such a process and claimed some of what happened was a chain of custody violation.

“We have also contended that the remarks by attorney Barksdale and the court that Sheriff Sills is the lead prosecutor is completely incorrect in violation of Georgia law,” Sirianni said.

The defense attorney contended that Sills had at that point gone beyond assisting the prosecution team and had involved himself to such a degree that Michael Seth Perrault couldn't receive a fair and impartial trial.

Before Sills’ testimony, 34 other prosecution witnesses testified before jurors during the trial.

He was apprised of the testimony of all 34 witnesses, Sirianni said.

“The prosecution called him as the final witness in the case,” he said. “The jury at that point had seen him seating at counsel’s table in a suit - not in his normal sheriff’s gear. He looks like an attorney; he acts like an attorney. He’s sitting there now at (this hearing).”

 Sirianni also questioned the need for Sills’ presence at Wednesday’s hearing.

In response, Barksdale talked about three points.

One included the defense counsel’s motion that the verdict was contrary to the evidence.

“Your honor, you remember this case,” Barksdale said. “I’ll let the evidence that was presented at trial speak for itself.”

On the point raised about the change of venue, the district attorney cited case laws that a defendant must show either that the setting of the trial was inherently prejudicial or that the jury selection process showed actual prejudice to the degree that it rendered a fair trial possible.

“Your honor, neither one of these applies here,” Barksdale said.

He also responded to legal points related to the chain of custody involving the gun used in the fatal shooting, as well as arguments raised about whether the sheriff should have been sequestered like all other witnesses in the case.

“There is a long-standing law here in the State of Georgia where the prosecutor who signs a warrant and indictment charging a defendant may remain in the courtroom and testify after other state witnesses have testified,” Barksdale said. “There is a number of cases that speak to this, your honor.”


















React to this story:


Trending Video