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Death row inmate back in Newton County
Rodney Renia Young
Rodney Renia Young - Georgia Department of Corrections

COVINGTON, Ga. – Convicted murderer and death row inmate Rodney Renia Young was back in a Newton County courtroom Monday morning as his attorneys work to get him a new trial.

Young, 49, was convicted and sentenced to death by a Newton County jury in 2012 for the 2008 beating and stabbing death of 28-year-old Gary Lamar Jones in Jones’ Covington home.

According to media reports at the time, Young became enraged when Jones’ mother, Doris, moved to Georgia from New Jersey to live with her son after ending a seven-year relationship. She returned to the home on Benedict Drive around 11:30 p.m. March 30, 2008 and found her son bound to a chair, stabbed in the neck and bludgeoned with a hammer.

Young was arrested April 3 in Bridgeton, New Jersey by an agent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and an investigator from Newton County Sheriff’s Office.

During the hearing, attorneys from the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender and the American Civil Liberties Union questioned proportionality in the Georgia Supreme Court’s review of death penalty cases.

They also argued before Alcovy Judicial Circuit Judge Samuel Ozburn that Young’s constitutional rights had been violated during his 2012 trial because he wasn’t present at bench conferences that occurred during the trial and questioned the constitutionality of Georgia’s requirement that death penalty defendants prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt.

The attorneys said Young’s wearing of a “stun belt” during his trial also deprived him of the opportunity to participate in his defense and receive a fair trial.

Testifying about the “stun belt,” Young said wearing the belt made him feel uncomfortable and that he was unable to communicate with his attorneys.

“They told me I would get shocked if I moved,” he said.

Under cross-examination by Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney Layla Zon, Young said he was never shocked during his trial. He also said he was never told he could not talk to his lawyers, nor did he ever communicate his discomfort with the belt during his trial.

Young was led into the courtroom at the Newton County Justice Center wearing his white Georgia Department of Corrections prison uniform and a blue jacket with a large white DOC on the back. His hands and feet were bound by handcuffs, leg shackles and a belly chain.

His lead attorney, Josh Moore of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender, asked Ozburn to allow one of Young’s hands to be released from the handcuffs so he could take notes.

Ozburn gave Young’s attorneys 45 days to provide the law on the issue of proportionality review and the DA’s office an additional 45 days.

“It will be a few months at least before he rules on that motion and likely as well on the motion for a new trial,” Zon said. “If he grants the motion for a new trial we will have to try the case again.

“If he denies the motion then he (Young) can appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.”