Mistrial declared after man waits 10 years in jail for day in court
Maurice Jimmerson’s pretrial detention is longest in Georgia history and second longest in U.S., his attorney says.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A mistrial has been declared for a man who has waited 10 years in jail for his day in court.
On Monday, a hung jury declared it was unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Maurice Jimmerson, the Georgia man who has been behind bars for 10 years while awaiting trial.
Jimmerson was remanded back to jail while he waits for a hearing next week about a possible reduction in bond. Because there was no verdict, Jimmerson could likely face an entire new trial.
Jimmerson’s co-defendant, Condell Benyard, who was incarcerated for seven years while awaiting trial. He was found not guilty of all 26 charges brought against him. Jimmerson also faced 26 charges.
Jimmerson’s attorney, Andrew Fleischman, said his client’s incarceration is the longest pretrial detention in Georgia history and the second longest in U.S. history. Fleischman is representing Jimmerson for free as a result of the coverage of the case from Atlanta News First Investigates.
“I’m old fashioned,” Fleischman said. “I think people should be convicted of a crime before they’re punished. This is an unprecedented case. This is about a core constitutional right, the right to a speedy trial. The right to due process. And, when you see people denied that right, the public needs to know about it.”
Two defendants were found not guilty back in 2013 in connection with the crime, believed to have been a gang-related shooting. Prosecutors have stated their “definitive” belief both Benyard and Jimmerson were the active shooters in the case. Jimmerson has been alleged by prosecutors to have been the fourth shooter in the crime, and is alleged to be the fifth.
Jimmerson’s family said they have been on an emotional rollercoaster, but they’re not giving up.
“His constitutional rights have been violated,” said Jimmerson’s mother, Sonya Holmes. “No one has paid attention. They put him in there and they forgot about him.”
Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards blamed the pandemic and a flood in the courthouse as the reasons for the delays.
“The bulk of the delay was beyond the control of anybody,” Edwards said. “We’ve been making every effort to bring him to trial.”
Edwards told the jury there was a witness who told investigators he saw Jimmerson at the fatal shooting. “That information is enough beyond a reasonable doubt to find these defendants guilty,” he said.
But Fleischman reminded the jury that witness later recanted his story, admitting he lied. The district attorney’s main witness was a man who came forward three years after the crime serving time in prison. He claimed he saw the Jimmerson pull the trigger 10 years ago. But in court this week, he admitted he lied about Jimmerson to get out of prison.
“No cell phone location, no DNA, no fingerprints,” Fleischman said, “and only one eyewitness who recanted his testimony.”
Edwards said he plans to put Jimmerson back on trial, and believes he’ll get a guilty verdict because he’ll have more time to call witnesses who can link Jimmerson to the shooting.
Fleischman plans to appeal this case to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing the 10-year trial delay violated his client’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
This story is part of a series about the constitutionally-guaranteed access to legal representation in court, and the challenges that arise when the supply of defenders is limited. Part one in the series looks at defendants’ desperate need for representation. Part two covers judges forced to take actions that may erode the public’s trust in the judicial system. In part three, former public defenders explain why they left the job. Part four looks at the search for solutions. Part five shows the agency’s director admits to lawmakers the Defender Council doesn’t have enough attorneys. Part six explains why the Defender Council does not want to pay for investigative resources for an indigent defendant. Part seven explains why a man has been behind bars for 10 years waiting for his day in court. Part eight reveals how the state agency has spent thousands on improving its image after ANF investigations. Part nine brings viewers up to date in the case of Maurice Jimmerson, the inmate profiled in part seven. Part 10 details a lawsuit by The Southern Center for Human Rights accusing the Georgia Public Defender Council (GPDC) of deliberately withholding public records. Part 11 follows a man forced to spend years under house arrest without being charged with a crime. Part 12 shows how Maryland’s public defender system can be an example to Georgia.
If there’s something you would like Atlanta News First Investigative Reporter Andy Pierrotti to look into, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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