SANDERSVILLE, Ga. — Murder indictments against three former Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies accused in the Taser death of a local man have been dismissed.
The indictments were thrown out because a court reporter was informed by Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman that she was not needed the day of grand jury proceedings.
Senior Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders Jr., of the Dublin Judicial Circuit, ruled Monday that the indictments returned by the grand jury were invalid because no court reporter was present and that the facts pertaining to their defense attorneys’ motion “are undisputed.”
Flanders ruled that Altman should have allowed a court reporter to transcribe the grand jury proceedings and those testifying in the case against the three men.
The judge also stated in his order, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday morning by the newspaper from the Washington County Superior Court Clerk’s Office, that if the prosecutor intended to submit the case for consideration by a grand jury again a new grand jury would have to be empaneled to consider the case.
As of Wednesday, there had been no comment from the district attorney concerning if or when he might consider calling a new slate of grand jurors to hear the case.
Eurie Lee Martin, who lived in Milledgeville, was walking along a roadway near the Deepstep community in Washington County July 7, 2017, when he was tased and by the men who at that time were employed with the county as deputies.
Martin later died, and Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith subsequently called for
an independent investigation into the matter by agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). When the sheriff received the preliminary findings of the GBI probe, he terminated Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott.
Altman took the case before a Washington County grand jury on Dec. 19, 2017, and grand jurors indicted all three men on criminal charges, including felony murder, in connection with Martin’s death.
the facts pertaining to a motion filed by defense attorneys representing the men that the charges made against their clients by grand jurors be quashed “are undisputed.”