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Supreme Court finds judge at fault

By Ed Brock

The Georgia Supreme Court has decided that Clayton County's chief judge in Superior Court erred when he tried to remove three attorneys from a death penalty case.

In the case of Aundra Dermaine Grant, accused of murder in connection with the January 2000 death of his girlfriend, Judge Stephen Boswell "failed to give proper weight to the significant relationship that existed between" Grant's court-appointed attorneys Matt Rubenstein, Cynthia Roseberry and Gary Parker, according to the Monday decision.

After several changes in defense Rubenstein, who practices with the Office of Georgia Capital Defense, was appointed to represent Grant and Roseberry and Parker worked with him as co-counsels, the decision states. At one point Boswell sought to replace Roseberry and Parker with attorney Theresa Hood, and when Rubenstein objected Boswell found him in contempt and removed him from the case as well.

"It's not unusual for judges to want local lawyers they are familiar with," said Rubenstein's attorney in the appeal Jack Martin.

Citing precedent from two other cases, the Supreme Court said Boswell wanted to "ensure the participation of local counsel."

"That objective is not sufficient, however, to overcome the strong interest of the defendant and of the court system in sustaining an existing, close relationship between a death penalty defendant and his counsel," the court ruled in restoring Roseberry and Parker to the case.

For the same reasons the court decided Boswell abused his discretion in removing Rubenstein from the case.

Martin said Boswell was a good judge who had made a mistake. Grant's trial will now go forward, he added, but he could not say when.

After the hearing in which Boswell removed Rubenstein from Grant's case he also removed Rubenstein from defending another accused murderer, Floyd Wayne Williams, Jr. Williams is accused of forcing his way into a home in Conley and killing 48-year-old Alejandro Gutierrez and 16-month-old Jose Arias in October 2001.

That case is also being appealed, Martin said.