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Hill to wear shock belt during murder trial
James Gary Hill III enters the courtroom for the Tuesday, July 9 pre-trial hearing in front of Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. - photo by Jackie Gutknecht

COVINGTON, Ga. - After a special hearing held Tuesday, July 9, Alcovy Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. ruled the defendant of an upcoming murder trial will wear a shock belt under his clothes during the entirety of the proceedings. 

James Gary Hill III faces charges of malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. Bennett said the maximum sentence for these crimes is a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

According to the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Amber Bennett argued in favor of the shock belt due to "the violent nature of the crime" and the ongoing display of violence from Hill. 

"This morning (Tuesday, July 9), the defendant was in a verbal altercation in which threats of harm were relayed and that was witnessed or observed by bailiffs who work in the courthouse and transport," she said. "Also, the defendant has pled guilty to two separate batteries since he has been incarcerated and arrested for this incident that occurred while he was being housed in the Walton County Jail - one being the day he was arrested and one subsequent to that."

Public Defender Anthony Carter, who represents Hill, raised some concerns. 

"The disadvantage of a shock belt is that its uncomfortable, it's sweaty. Unless there's a reason why the defendant has shown any actions in court that would show he would be violent, it would be understandable," he said. "I do understand the state's concerns. We would just object for the record."

Johnson ruled in favor of the state's request. 

"Given the nature of what's occurred - as recent as today (Tuesday, July 9) - I'm going to order that he be placed in the belt," he said. 

Hill is accused of killing 27-year-old Kelly Marshall and leaving her body under the Mount Tabor Road bridge next to the Yellow River Aug. 12, 2017. He has been jailed since his arrest the following day on traffic charges after running from deputies in Walton County and is currently housed at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison because his probation for a previous conviction was revoked. 

In December 2017 Newton County Coroner Tommy Davis said an autopsy determined that Marshall’s manner of death was homicide caused by asphyxia. Investigators with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office later determined that there was enough probable cause to charge Hill with the murder.

The Covington News will provide live stream coverage of the trial after jury selection is completed. During Tuesday's hearing, Johnson said jury selection should be completed Monday, July 15 and the trial should start Tuesday, July 16.