By Valerie Baldowski and Jason A. Smith
A Henry County judge on Friday convicted a Stockbridge man of four of the six charges against him in the 2007 shooting deaths of two teenage girls.
Labaron Devon Curry, 20, was charged in the deaths of 16-year-olds, Molly Cohran and Yahshika Frye, who were killed during a June 2007 graduation party at a Stockbridge apartment complex. Henry County Superior Court Judge Arch McGarity, who has overseen Curry's bench trial, found Curry guilty of two counts of felony murder and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to Henry County Assistant District Attorney Jim Wright. McGarity acquitted Curry on two counts of malice murder, Wright said.
"The evidence speaks for itself," said Crystal Cohran, Molly Cohran's mother. "I thank God that justice has been served. Nothing is going to bring my daughter back, but I believe the judge convicted the right person."
Curry declined to take the stand in his own defense during the trial, according to his attorney, Public Defender Gary Bowman.
"The evidence showed beyond a reasonable doubt, through the scientific evidence and the testimony of the witnesses, that this defendant shot Miss Frye and Miss Cohran with the murder weapon they found from the scene," said Wright.
McGarity was asked by Curry's defense attorney to examine the site of the shootings, the clubhouse of the St. Ives Crossing apartments, before deliberating on a verdict.
"Essentially, I felt like in a ... case of this nature, I needed to make sure I did everything that was necessary to render a fair, honest verdict," said McGarity, who visited the scene Friday.
McGarity, who has been a judge for 14 years, said such a visit was rare.
During his closing arguments in the case, Wright said Curry was cut on the arm during the party, and came back with a gun.
"That abandoned and malignant heart took a .357 magnum, one of the most powerful handguns known to man, and decided he would shoot indiscriminately into a crowd of people, for no other reason than he had a cut on his arm," said Wright.
Bowman countered that it would've been difficult for someone with Curry's injury to wield the weapon.
"This is not a light weapon, and when you fire it, it's going to recoil," Bowman said.
Although witness testimony conflicted as to who pulled the trigger, the DNA extracted from blood samples collected at the scene connected Curry to the shootings, Wright said.
"Most of the witnesses couldn't identify the defendant, but does that mean he didn't do it?" he asked McGarity. "We didn't need fingerprints, because we had his blood."
Bowman told the court there was too much confusion over the identity of the shooter, and where the person stood, to prove Curry's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Photos taken of the blood stains at the scene did not indicate Curry shot the victims, Bowman said. "That piece of evidence does not substantiate Mr. Curry was the shooter," he said.
Bowman reiterated previous assertions that Curry, who was 18 at the time, was coerced into confessing to the crime.
"What you have here is a boy who is a few weeks over 17," Bowman said. "They simply got Mr. Curry to say what they wanted him to say."
A sentencing date for Curry had not been set as of Friday.