Two murderers, convicted on separate crimes, are both petitioning the court for new trials this summer, each for different reasons.
Franklin Elliot Benson
Originally convicted in 2009 of the murder and dismemberment of his one-time girlfriend 49-year-old Leslyan Williams, Benson, 52, first requested a new trial in 2010, citing ineffective assistance of counsel and inefficiency of evidence.
Benson's first attorneys took the stand, along with a witness who had decline to come to the first trial, a maintenance man at a hotel where the victim's car was found and where video surveillance of Benson dropping it off was taken.
During his first trial, a jury convicted Benson of murder, concealing the death of another and removal of body parts from scene of death or dismemberment, and Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr sentenced him to life plus 11 years.
An attorney for Benson filed an amended request for a new trial in 2011 and again in March of this year. According to the most recent request, "friends and family members were improperly excluded from the courtroom during jury selection in violation of the defendant's rights under the First and Sixth Amendments."
District Attorney Layla Zon responded with a motion asking the new trial be denied, saying that testimony from the initially absent witness would have made in difference and that the state proved all elements of the crimes he was charged with, so his due process rights were not violated.
Benson was set to have his motion heard this week, but that has been continued until later this summer.
Darrell Antonio Crowder
Crowder initially took a plea deal in the murder case of his estranged wife 43-year-old Catcilia Crowder in 2009, admitting that he shot her to death in her Newton County home after leaving his post office distribution job in Atlanta and breaking down her door while their child slept in the home. He was sentenced to life plus five years, required to serve at least 30 years before becoming eligible for parole.
In 2010 Crowder pleaded ineffective assistance of counsel, saying his attorney misinformed him about his eligibility for parole and told him he would not have to serve the full 30 years before his eligibility kicked in. Additionally, he told Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton that, had he known that, he would have insisted on a trial.
Benton denied his request, however Benton's ruling was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court, and he was granted a trial which began in March.
Crowder fared no better with a jury, being convicted and sentenced to life plus 35 years, 30 years more then what he received when he first pleaded guilty in 2009.
Yet a new trial has been requested in the case. The motion filed states Crowder is entitled to a new trial because: jury verdict is contrary to the evidence, the jury verdict is contrary to the substantial weight of the evidence, the verdict and sentence is contrary to law and the state failed to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Initially scheduled to be heard yesterday, the trial has been continued to next month.