By Daniel Silliman
Clayton County's first murder trial in juvenile court is set to start Tuesday morning.
Jeffrey Winslow, Jr., 17, will stand before Judge Steve Teske on charges that he murdered Edward "Boo Man" Mills in 2007, in an argument over marijuana and money.
Juveniles charged with murder are automatically tried in Superior Court as adults, according to Georgia law, but if the juvenile defendant isn't indicted by a grand jury within 180 days, the case is sent back to juvenile court.
When the Clayton County District Attorney's Office missed the deadline, apparently due to a misread date and a haphazard tracking system, Winslow's case was returned to juvenile court.
Now, instead of facing a possible life sentence if convicted of murder, the 17-year-old faces the possible maximum sentence of juvenile detention until his 21st birthday.
Juvenile court records show only one other case in the history of the county, in which someone under 17 was charged with murder as a juvenile. The case was later transferred to Superior Court, however, where the teen was tried as an adult. The law was changed in 1994, so that children charged with one of the "seven deadly sins," a list topped by murder, are charged as adults automatically.
The law includes the six-month deadline, though. The district attorney's office appealed for an extension, but failed to convince a judge there was "good cause" for the delay.
Prosecutors blamed the police department for the delay, but didn't demonstrate they ever told the detective they needed a summary of the investigation for indictment. They never told the detective there was a deadline, and waited while lab tests, peripheral to the investigation, were completed. The office's investigator, in charge of shepherding the case from the preliminary, probable cause hearing to the grand jury stage, testified he barely touched the file and didn't know the law's deadline.
Prosecutors also asked for an extension because they started counting the 180 days from when Winslow turned 17 and was transferred from juvenile detention to the county jail, but the judge said the prosecutors' confusion wasn't an excuse. Judge Deborah Benefield ruled that the District Attorney's Office was "negligent," and then repeated the ruling in response to an appeal.
When Winslow enters the courtroom at the old courthouse in Jonesboro, the case won't be heard by a jury, but by a judge. Judge Teske will hear evidence allegedly connecting Winslow to the fatal shooting in October 2007.
Winslow, allegedly went to Point Place South Apartments on Flint River Road in Jonesboro, on a Sunday afternoon, to buy $15 of marijuana from Mills. He allegedly believed Mills tried to cheat him on the amount, and shot him with a 9 mm handgun.
There are no witnesses to the actual shooting, but police have witnesses who say they saw Winslow go to buy the drugs, who say they knew he was armed with a 9 mm, and who say they saw him running from the scene.
The defense is expected to present witnesses who put Winslow at home, during the time of the murder. The defense is expected to challenge the identifications of Winslow, suggesting the witnesses only saw gang paraphernalia, not the boy.
The trial is set to start Tuesday at 9 a.m., and could be concluded by the end of the week.