Wrongful death lawsuit decision favors victim's family

By Ed Brock

A default judgment has been made against a Clayton County man in a civil lawsuit for the wrongful death of a Fayette County man who was shot to death in his home last year.

However, Fayette County prosecutors still have not charged William Edward Robbins III with a criminal charge in the April 23, 2003 shooting of David Mangham of Fayetteville.

Clayton County Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell issued a verdict Wednesday in the lawsuit filed in February by Mangham's parents, Orris and Carrie Mangham, according to the Manghams' lawyer Melvin Hewitt, Jr.

According to Hewitt, David Mangham discovered Robbins in his home on the day of the killing. When Mangham saw that Robbins was taking around $3,000 from him Mangham ran to get a gun, at which time Robbins shot him, according to Hewitt.

The decision came after Robbins, on the advice of his criminal attorneys, refused to answer any questions in the case or to be deposed.

"As we expected, on the advice of his criminal attorneys, Robbins withdrew his answers to the civil suit and by failing to respond to our questions and refusing to appear for a deposition he has essentially admitted the Mangham's claim that Robbins murdered their son," Hewitt said.

Robbins' attorney in the civil case, Steve Mixon of Jonesboro, said it is standard practice for criminal defense attorneys to advise their client not to comment on the case against them.

Lee Sexton, whose partner Ricky Morris represents Robbins in the criminal investigation, said that wrongful death lawsuits are a way to circumvent the constitutional right not to speak to police. There is less protection of the right to remain silent in a civil case, Sexton said.

"It would be legal malpractice if I allowed Robbins to say anything under oath," Sexton said.

Sexton said Robbins would have no comment on the decision in the wrongful death lawsuit.

Fayette County District Attorney Bill McBroom did not return a phone call seeking comment on the possibility of criminal charges being filed against Robbins.

The case is still under investigation, Fayette County sheriff's Sgt. Tracey Carroll said.

If a settlement is not reached before then Boswell will hold a hearing in 30 days to determine the damages that will be awarded to the Mangham family.

Hewitt couldn't say how much the damages might be.

"It will be substantial. We asked for an eight figure verdict," Hewitt said.

The killing occurred in Fayette County, but because the defendant is a Clayton County resident the suit was filed and heard here.