By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Clayton County prosecutors dropped two charges against a Morrow woman due to stand trial next week in the beating death of her mother.
Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers and defense attorney Lloyd Matthews squared off in Judge Matthew Simmons' courtroom Wednesday on pre-trial motions. Matthews represents Kajul Harvey, 23, on charges she helped her boyfriend kill her mother, Alena Marble, in June 2011.
Matthews wanted several of the 24 counts facing Harvey dismissed.
"She was not keeping her (Marble) from being rescued because she was beyond rescuing," said Matthews. "False imprisonment? Yes, she was in the trunk but she was not exactly mobile or able to get around at that point."
Matthews also argued that Harvey couldn't be a party to the crimes and also an accessory after the fact. Prosecutors said her boyfriend, Latoris Grovner, did the actual killing but that Harvey knew about it, did nothing to stop it and cleaned up afterward. Grovner was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Marble was beaten with a vodka bottle and a saucepan, wrapped in three blankets, placed alive and breathing in her own car trunk and left to die in the summer heat across the road from where she lived with Harvey and her grandchildren.
Marble's apartment was splattered with her blood and police found four of her teeth in and around her sofa. By his own admission, Grovner tried to access her money within five minutes of the beating. After removing her from the apartment, he tried again.
Matthews also objected to the state prosecuting Harvey on charges where she faces life in prison.
"If she gets life in prison for murder when her co-defendant got voluntary manslaughter, that's a serious miscarriage of justice," he said. "She laid not nary a single finger on her mother."
Powers said Matthews should save his arguments for trial.
"All his motions are one big motion for directed verdict of acquittal," she said. "This defendant and Mr. Grovner acted as parties and co-conspirators."
Powers agreed to dropping charges of felony murder and concealing a death. She said the underlying charge for the murder is financial transaction card theft which is covered in a robbery charge. Harvey still faces multiple malice and felony murder counts. However, she can only be sentenced on one of each if convicted because there is only one victim.
Simmons disagreed with Matthews' arguments.
"I'll (drop) these two charges but the rest are an attempt to have this court dismiss charges because the defense contends the state can't prove them," said Simmons. "The court has no authority to dismiss the charges. The state has the burden of proof and it's up to the jury to decide. The court can't say that the state will never prove the case so we'll dismiss it. That's where you make your argument for directed verdict after the state rests its case during the trial."
Simmons also told Matthews that the state can proceed with charging Harvey as a party to a crime and as an accessory after the fact.
"The state can make the allegations," he said. "But the court can't sentence on both."
Simmons ordered that there be no reference to Grovner's conviction or sentence during Harvey's trial. Grovner was transported this week from Ware State Prison to the Clayton County Jail but it is unclear if he will testify in Harvey’s case.