By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Newton judge considers murderer’s request for appeal of 2017 conviction
Nathaniel Barnes
Nathaniel Barnes (Special Photo | Georgia Department of Corrections)

COVINGTON, Ga. — A Newton County judge last week reportedly was still considering a convicted murderer’s motion to allow an appeal of his conviction following his negotiated guilty plea in August 2017. 

Nathaniel Lamar Barnes, 30, asked Superior Court Judge Ken Wynne Sept. 8 for the action after alleging his attorney at the time he entered the guilty plea gave him ineffective counsel, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Amber Dally.

Barnes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison and has resided in Calhoun State Prison since August 2017.

State law requires appeals to be filed within 30 days of a judge’s decision. The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that an “out of time” appeal request beyond 30 days can be granted in cases in which ineffective counsel can be proven.

His case stems from the July 4, 2016, murder of a man on Grosslake Parkway in an apartment complex formerly named Enclave.

Barnes and a friend were buying marijuana at the complex. During the course of the deal, Barnes shot and killed the victim, according to testimony in Newton County Superior Court. 

The murder weapon was later recovered at Barnes’ home, Dally said.

In a separate case involving the Newton County District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia Court of Appeals on Sept. 1 upheld the July 2019 conviction of Jose Galarza on a charge of Trafficking Methamphetamine.  

Galarza’s appeal follows his arrest in April 2017 in Covington. He claimed that the evidence presented at trial in July 2019, such as text messages, was insufficient. 

The Court of Appeals rejected Galarza’s argument and pointed to both direct and circumstantial evidence against him, according to the Newton County District Attorney’s Office. 

The court stated that a fellow defendant’s testimony was sufficient evidence of guilt, and it rejected his claim the evidence “failed to exclude every other reasonable hypothesis except guilt.”

Galarza was sentenced to 30 years, with the first 20 years in prison, based on the amount of methamphetamine he had (16 ounces) and his criminal history, according to the district attorney’s office and the court’s summary of the case. 

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jillian Hall represented the state during the appeal process and at the trial level.

The Newton County District Attorney’s Office also tried two cases in front of juries recently with both ending in guilty verdicts. 

On Aug. 31 a jury convicted Justin C. Phillips on two counts of felony Terroristic Threats and one count of Criminal Trespass. 

The case stemmed from a January 2019 incident in Porterdale. A judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for a later date. 

Just before the trial, in a separate case Phillips entered a guilty plea to Interference with Government Property. He was sentenced to five years with the first two in prison with the remainder on probation. 

In a Sept. 1 jury trial, Timothy Haynes was convicted on charges of DUI, Obstruction of an Officer, and Failure to Yield. 

Haynes was charged after causing a motor vehicle crash in the area of Crowell and Brown Bridge roads in March 2018. 

Haynes was eventually sentenced to a total of 36 months with the first 45 days in jail followed by probation and numerous conditions.