Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge William A. Prior Jr. has denied a motion from condemned killer Marion Murdock Wilson Jr. seeking a new trial, and now Wilson’s defense attorneys have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Prior, who presided over the jury trials of Wilson and Robert Earl Butts, both convicted in 1997 of the March 28, 1996, execution-style shooting of 25-year-old Donavan Corey Parks of Milledgeville. A sawed-off shotgun was used in the killing. The trials of both men were held in Baldwin County Superior Court in Milledgeville.
After finding both men guilty of malice and felony murder of Parks, who worked as an officer with the Georgia Department of Corrections, jurors then determined that Wilson and Butts should die for the crimes they committed.
Butts was put to death by lethal injection last year after serving 22 years on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson. And now Wilson is scheduled to die at the same state facility at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20.
If put to death, Wilson will become the 51st person to die by lethal injection since Georgia chose that method for its state executions many years ago.
Wilson’s defense attorneys, Marcia A. Widder with the Georgia Resource Center in Atlanta, and Brian Kammer, of Decatur, had filed what is known as an extraordinary motion for a new trial, as well as to seek DNA testing on a necktie that was introduced as evidence during their client’s trial in the murder case of Parks, who was raised and lived in Baldwin County.
O.C.G.A. 5-5-41 allows the filing of an extraordinary motion for a new trial outside the 30-day window for a motion for a new trial based on what are considered extraordinary circumstances.
“The court finds that defendant cannot establish the requested DNA testing would raise a reasonable probability that (defendant) would have been acquitted if the results of DNA testing had been available at the time of conviction, in light of all the evidence in the case; the identity of the perpetrator of the crimes was a significant issue at trial; or that his motion, filed at this late hour, is not for the purpose of delay,” according to the order.
Prior denied Wilson’s motion for a new trial May 30, 2019.
Wilson’s murder trial in Baldwin County Superior Court began Oct. 27, 1997, and ended Nov. 7 with his conviction on the charges of malice murder, felony murder, as well as armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.
The procedural history of the case also reveals that trial jurors found a statutory aggravating circumstance that the offense of murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony, robbery.
On Nov. 1, 1999, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed Wilson’s convictions and sentences.
Wilson filed a state habeas corpus petition on Jan. 19, 2001, and on Dec. 1, 2008, the state habeas court denied relief. The Supreme Court of Georgia also denied Wilson’s certificate for probable cause to appeal.
And on Dec. 6, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court denied him certiorari review.
Wilson continued to pursue his legal rights through the criminal justice system.
He filed a federal habeas corpus petition on Dec. 15, 2010, with the district court, which was denied on Dec. 19, 2013. The 11th Circuit of Appeals later affirmed such denial of relief.
It prompted Wilson’s attorneys to apply for certiorari review on March 12, 2019, but on May 28, 2019, that petition also was denied, according to court records.
When it comes to the finding of fact and conclusions of law, Prior said in his latest order that Wilson’s request for DNA testing requires a trial court to conduct a hearing only if a defendant’s motion complies with the requirements of the statute.
“After review, this court finds that the defendant cannot establish the necessary showing for” (such a hearing), court records show. “The court finds the defendant failed to meet the requirements of (the statute) that the requested DNA testing would raise a reasonable probability that the defendant would have been acquitted if the results of the DNA testing had been available at the time of the conviction, in light of the evidence in the case. Assuming the tie was tested and determined to have Butts’s DNA on it, this would not acquit the defendant.”
The court also pointed out that there was evidence and eyewitness testimony that Wilson had on gloves on the night of the murder. A videotape showed he was wearing gloves on the night of the crimes.
“Accordingly, the lack of his DNA or the presence of Butts’s DNA on the tie would not acquit defendant (Wilson),” the court ruled. “This is true, particularly in light of the evidence that establishes the defendant’s guilt.”
When the case was directly appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, the court found that the evidence at trial established a number of facts.
The state’s high court found the following facts, based on the evidence during the jury trial. That account follows:
On the night of March 28, 1996, Donovan Corey Parks walked into Walmart to purchase some cat food. Parks had driven to the local Walmart, at that time located off North Columbia Street in Milledgeville, in his 1992 Acura Vigor, which he had parked in the fire lane directly in front of the store.
“Witnesses observed Wilson and Butts standing behind Parks in one of the store’s checkout lines, and, shortly thereafter, speaking with Parks beside his automobile,” according to court documents. “A witness overheard Butts ask Parks for a ride, and several witnesses observed Wilson and Butts entering Parks’ automobile.”
Parks’ was shot to death a short time later.