Convicts in Augusta murder case get mixed news in appeals

From left: William Clark and Jeremiah Kelly
From left: William Clark and Jeremiah Kelly(Contributed)
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 10:46 AM EST
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ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction and life sentence of one suspect for a 2012 slaying and other crimes, while ordering a new trial for another defendant.

The crimes happened on Aug. 3, 2012.

A few weeks later, a Richmond County grand jury indicted William Clark and Jeremiah Kelly on charges of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Clark alone was tried from Oct. 11-14, 2016, and a jury found him not guilty of malice murder and an aggravated assault and firearm offense, but guilty of the remaining crimes.

The trial court sentenced him to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for felony murder, 20 consecutive years for aggravated assault and five consecutive years each for the two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

In his appeal, Clark contended the evidence presented at his trial was legally insufficient to support his convictions for the crimes against King; the trial court applied the wrong standard in admitting evidence of an audio recording of his interview with the lead investigator for his case; the trial court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on knowledge, grave suspicion, mere presence, and mere association; and his trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to request those instructions and by failing to file a demurrer to the indictment.

The Supreme Court found each of these “meritless.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court granted Kelly a new trial.

Kelly, who was tried in March 2015, was found not guilty of malice murder but guilty of the remaining counts against him.

On March 23, 2015, the trial court sentenced Kelly to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for malice murder and consecutive terms of years for the other offenses.

After he was convicted of murder, the trial court granted his motion for new trial, but gave the state an opportunity to request a rehearing within 30 days. The state filed such a request within that time, but did so after the expiration of the court’s term. However, the trial court purported to enter a denial of Kelly’s motion for new trial.

The Supreme Court found that to have been done in error and remanded the case “for further proceedings pursuant to the trial court’s initial order granting Kelly a new trial.”

The initial request for a new trial stemmed from an allegation that the District Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest.