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New attorney for accused murderer of Conyers landscaper
Maldonado Pablo MUG
Pablo Maldonado

A defense attorney for accused murderer Pablo Fernando Maldonado filed 18 motions in Maldonado's death penalty case on Thursday.

The 24-year-old is charged with being the ringleader in the 2009 murder of 53-year-old Conyers landscaper Timothy Clements. He, along with three others - Christian Caldwell, 19; Brittney Beasley, 20; and Katria McClain, 18 - are accused of kidnapping Clements, robbing him and then killing him, dumping his wrapped body in Snapping Shoals Creek. They reportedly stole his truck and fled to Alabama. According to McClain, who took a plea deal last year, the group planned the murder out the night before.

During the status conference in court on Thursday, Newton County District Attorney Layla Zon told Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. that she had letters recently sent to her that she believed were from Maldonado, although they were signed with the name of one of his co-defendants. The letters essentially clear Maldonado of any wrongdoing and blame a co-defendant for the murder.

Stephen Yekel, chief conflict defender with the Georgia Public Defender's office, has recently taken over the case for the defense due to a conflict with Maldonado's previous attorneys with the Capital Defender's Office. Yekel requested copies of Clements' autopsy, as well as reports from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab which Zon said she would get him immediately.

Yekel also informed the court that he had filed 18 motions in the case Thursday.

"Those are by no means the last of the motions," he told Johnson, explaining that he was basically starting fresh on the case and asking that the court not hold that against him.

He also requested an ex parte order that the judge granted immediately, clearing the courtroom so that Yekel and Maldonado could address the judge.

An ex parte order means that the other party - in this case, the prosecution - has not been notified of the hearing or is not participating in it. It is generally granted by a judge so that an emergency matter can be decided by the judge.

Prior to clearing the courtroom, Zon requested that the state be notified of the general nature of the ex parte hearings and asked that the judge considers if the issue truly needs to be ex parte. Johnson said he believed that was appropriate.

Johnson set a tentative date of Aug. 24 to begin going through the motions in the case.

In Georgia, there are several aggravating factors that determine eligibility for the state to seek death as punishment. These include the murder being "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or depraved (or involving torture)," or being committed for pecuniary gain, all of which the prosecution alleges against Maldonado.