See: Best description of original incident. With that said, if you wish to read the entire case it is below, but read the highlights to see how it ended (way down).11-28-1995 Georgia:
CARNESVILLE - More than a year after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction, a trial date has still not been set for a Franklin County man whose trip through the court system has taken more improbable twists than an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
Sterling Barber, who will turn 20 on Sept. 6, was convicted by a Franklin County jury in 1996 on felony murder, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, armed robbery and motor vehicle theft charges in the Nov. 28, 1995, slaying of convicted child molester Gerald Wyatt.
Barber admitted to stabbing the Madison County hairdresser with a large knife Barber carried, but said he did it in self-defense. Wyatt posed as a private detective, tricked Barber into going with him to a secluded Franklin County road and tried to rape him, Barber testified in his trial.
Barber's lawyer at the time brought five men who were prepared to tell the jury that Wyatt had tried to molest them when they were boys, but the trial judge, William F. Grant, allowed only two to testify.
On June 30, 1997, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction, ruling that Grant should have allowed all five men to testify.
But more than a year later, Barber remains in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $140,000 bond. He has a new new lawyer, the state has a new prosector - the second one appointed to prosecute Barber - and even the judge in the case is new. The upshot is that the case has not been scheduled for trial, and hearing dates have not been set for several motions filed last October by Barber's new lawyer, Ed Tolley of Athens.
Tolley was Barber's original defense attorney, but had to drop the case when he was hired to prepare the University of Georgia's defense in an NCAA investigation of the UGA football program.
The daisy chain of personnel moves began in October 1996, when Tolley took over Barber's defense from Northern Circuit Public Defender Bob Lavender, who was elected district attorney. Lavender, who defended Barber in his trial, replaced Lindsay Tice. Tice had resigned to assume the seat of Grant, who retired as the Northern District's chief Superior Court judge after 1996.
When the Supreme Court overturned the convictions, Lavender disqualified himself from prosecuting because he had been Barber's defense attorney.
The case was reassigned to George Bryant, the Northern Circuit's new chief judge, and Bryant appointed Danielsville lawyer Lane Fitzpatrick to prosecute Barber. But Fitzpatrick resigned in February after Tolley filed court motions asking to have Fitzpatrick disqualified, arguing that Fitzpatrick had conflicts of interest.
Fitzpatrick once sued Wyatt in a civil case on behalf of an elderly woman swindled by Wyatt, Tolley said. Fitzpatrick also had a conflict because his law partner, Tom Camp, represented the Franklin County Department of Family and Children Services when Barber was in the agency's custody, Tolley argued.
On Feb. 24, Bryant asked the office of State Attorney General Thurburt Baker to take over prosecuting the case, but so far there has been no movement.
"We've had folks working on this for some time now. We're prepared to try it, and plan to try it," said Daryl Robinson, deputy counsel to Baker.
But so far, "We have no inkling when the trial might be," he said.
Before there can be a trial, Bryant will have to schedule hearings on Tolley's motions. Those include a motion to move the trial outside Franklin County, and a motion to throw out search warrants Franklin County authorities obtained to search Barbers' parents' home. Law officers seized Wyatt's watch, his briefcase and wallet when they executed that search warrant.
Tolley was unavailable for comment Monday and Tuesday. ..more.. by Lee Shearer
Franklin man's tussle with law on '48 Hours'
CARNESVILLE -- The sad, twisted case of Sterling Barber will get prime-time national exposure Thursday on the news show ''48 Hours,'' airing at 10 p.m. on CBS.
The segment, called ''A Time To Kill,'' has been a year-and-a-half in the making and explores the case of Barber, a Franklin County man still awaiting a re-trial in the Nov. 27, 1995, stabbing death of Madison County businessman Gerald Douglas Wyatt -- family man and church deacon to some, sexual molester and swindler in others' eyes.
The ''48 Hours'' story is distilled from more than 100 hours of interviews with Barber, his family, Wyatt's family and others involved in the case, said Abra Potkin, one of the show's producers.
''It's a very difficult story. There are no winners,'' Potkin said.
On one side, ''there's this kid who's in prison waiting, not knowing what his future holds,'' she said. On the other side, there is the family of the murder victim, who ''are committed to making people remember there was a murder, who want people to remember that he was a husband and a father -- a good father,'' she said.
''It raises some very important questions,'' she said.
Arrested three days after Wyatt bled to death from six stab wounds, Barber admitted from the beginning that he stabbed Wyatt to death with a large knife Barber habitually carried on his belt.
But Barber, then 17, said he acted in self-defense. Wyatt, 48, a hair dresser and used-car dealer, told Barber he was a private detective, offered him money to be his local guide and lured him to a deserted Franklin County road, Barber told investigators. There Wyatt, a convicted child molester, tried to rape him, Barber said in court.
In Barber's first murder trial, in September 1996, Northern Circuit District Attorney Lindsay Tise portrayed Barber as a cold-blooded killer who planned all along to rob Wyatt and steal his 1988 Lincoln Continental.
A Franklin County jury agreed with Tise's version of events. On Oct. 3, 1996, the jury convicted Barber of felony murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery and motor vehicle theft. Barber was shipped from the Franklin County Jail to Hays State Prison to serve a life sentence.
Barber was back in the Franklin County Jail within months, however, after the Georgia Supreme Court ordered a new trial for him.
The court ruled that Superior Court Judge William T. Grant had made a serious mistake by allowing the testimony of only two of five defense witnesses, all prepared to testify that Wyatt had either molested them or tried to when they were teens.
One of the witnesses said Wyatt threatened him with a shotgun, one said Wyatt threatened him with a razor, and the Supreme Court ruled that Grant should have allowed all five to testify.
CBS originally planned to follow Barber's case through his second trial, but the case has dragged on so long that the show decided to go ahead with the broadcast, Potkin said.
In the 26 months since Barber was convicted, a series of twists and turns has caused delay upon delay, and Barber has yet to get his new trial.
A month after the jury convicted Barber, the prosecutor, Tise, was elected to a Northern Circuit Superior Court judgeship, filling the post left open when Grant -- the trial judge -- retired. Barber's lawyer, Bob Lavender, was elected to Tise's post as Northern Circuit district attorney.
Lavender withdrew as Barber's defense counsel, and also had to withdraw from prosecuting the case because he had defended the young man. Athens lawyer Ed Tolley took over the case, filing the appeal that got Barber a new trial. Tolley was actually Barber's first lawyer, but withdrew when the University of Georgia Athletic Association asked him to defend them in an NCAA football recruiting investigation.
The new trial judge, Northern Circuit Chief Judge George Bryant, appointed Danielsville lawyer Lane Fitzpatrick to prosecute the case. Fitzpatrick withdrew in February 1998, however, after Tolley filed court papers accusing Fitzpatrick of a conflict of interest -- Fitzpatrick's law firm represented the Madison County Department of Family and Children Services when Barber was under DFACS supervision.
Days after Fitzpatrick withdrew, Gov. Zell Miller appointed the state Office of the Attorney General to prosecute the case.
In October 1997, four months before Fitzpatrick pulled out, Tolley had filed nearly two dozen motions, including one that asks to move the trial to another jurisdiction because of excessive publicity and another asking the judge to approve money for Barber's defense to hire an investigator and independent experts to evaluate the evidence.
The state filed its responses to Tolley's motions in August.
On Aug. 28, barely a week before Barber turned 20 -- his third birthday behind bars -- Bryant suspended a hearing on whether to reduce Barber's bond because a doctor who had treated Barber was unable to be in court to testify.
The hearing was never completed, and now Bryant himself has withdrawn from the case.
In November, 10th Judicial District Administrative Judge Penn McWhorter appointed Augusta Superior Court Judge Bernard Mulherin to prosecute the case -- the third judge the case has been assigned to.
Three months later, Mulherin as of yet has set no hearing dates. ..Source.. by Lee Shearer, Staff Writer
Sterling Barber free on bail
Sterling Barber walked out of the Franklin County Jail on Friday evening a free man -- for now -- after two women who had watched a television show about his case agreed to post a $175,000 bond for the Franklin County man.
Barber, now 21, still faces re-trial on murder and other felony charges in the 1995 stabbing death of Madison County businessman Gerald Douglas Wyatt.
Barber's case was featured in the Feb. 11 broadcast of the CBS News show ''48 Hours,'' and more than 100 calls offering financial help flooded in the next day to the home of Judy Barber, Sterling Barber's mother, and Ed Tolley, his Athens lawyer, they said.
The two women who posted Barber's bond -- one from Warner Robins, one from Habersham County -- had seen the TV show, Judy Barber said Monday morning.
The women, who did not know the family before the TV show, asked to remain anonymous, she said.
Barber, now 20, threw a baseball around a little on Saturday morning, but spent much of the weekend visiting family and friends, including a Saturday night welcome home celebration at Ryan's restaurant in Commerce, his mother said.
After watching the movie ''The Man in the Iron Mask'' Sunday evening, Barber went to work Monday morning, laying brick with the same Habersham County brick masonry company that employs Barber's stepfather, Darrell Berthelot, she said.
''It feels like waking up and you're not in the war zone,'' said Judy Barber of her son's return. ''I cherish every second. It's just absolutely wonderful.''
Meanwhile, Barber will continue to wait for developments in his second trial on murder and other charges in the stabbing death of Wyatt, a convicted child molester, on Nov. 27, 1995. Barber was 17 at the time.
In 1996, a Franklin County jury found Barber guilty of felony murder, armed robbery, motor vehicle theft and aggravated assault in the case. The jury reduced another charge -- malice murder -- to voluntary manslaughter.
The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction and Barber's life sentence and ordered a new trial in 1997, however. The court said the trial judge should have allowed the jury to hear more evidence about Wyatt's predilection to molest young boys, including the testimony of several men who said Wyatt had attempted to sexually molest them when they were teen-agers.
Barber has admitted that he stabbed Wyatt to death with a knife Barber carried on his belt. But he said he did it in self-defense after Wyatt tried to rape him on a dark Franklin County dirt road.
Prosecutor Lindsey Tise portrayed Barber as a cold-blooded killer who planned all along to rob Wyatt and steal his 1988 Lincoln Continental.
Barber has been behind bars since his arrest days after the murder in Thomasville, where he fled after the killing.
The case has not moved forward in the court system in the 20 months since the Supreme Court overturned Barber's conviction, however. The trial judge retired, and was replaced by a second judge, who has since been replaced by a third judge, this one from Augusta.
Barber's defense lawyer during the trial, Bob Lavender, was elected Northern Circuit District Attorney to replace Tise one month after the jury's original verdict. Lavender was replaced as defense lawyer by Ed Tolley of Athens, who could not take the case originally when he was hired by the University of Georgia Athletic Department to investigate charges of cheating in football recruiting.
A new prosecutor was also appointed to replace Tise, who is now a judge, but that prosecutor, Lane Fitzpatrick of Madison, withdrew after Tolley filed a motion to have him thrown off the case because of conflict of interest. Former Gov. Zell Miller then appointed the state Office of the Attorney General to prosecute the case. ..Source.. by Lee Shearer, Staff Writer
Local lawyer says charges should be dropped in murder case
Murder charges should be dropped against a Franklin County man who stabbed a Madison County businessman to death in 1995, a lawyer for the defendant argued in court papers filed Tuesday.
According to Athens lawyer Ed Tolley, a jury in a previous trial handed down inconsistent verdicts in the case, which Tolley said is a reason to dismiss murder charges against the Franklin County man.
Tolley filed the papers in Franklin County Superior Court Tuesday.
Sterling Barber was convicted in a 1996 trial, but the verdict was thrown out and a new trial ordered by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1997.
In the 1996 trial, a Franklin County jury found Barber guilty of felony murder, armed robbery motor vehicle theft and aggravated assault. The jury reduced another charge -- malice murder -- to voluntary manslaughter.
In the new case against Barber, the state should follow that jury's example and reduce the malice murder charge against Barber to voluntary manslaughter, Tolley argued in Tuesday's court papers.
By reducing the charge against Barber, the 1996 jury found that there was no ''malice'' in his actions -- therefore the malice murder charge should be reduced to voluntary manslaughter, Tolley said.
The 1996 jury's verdicts were inconsistent, however, according to Tolley.
In choosing a voluntary manslaughter conviction, the jury was saying Barber did what he did in response to provocation by Wyatt. But the jury also found Barber guilty of felony murder, or murder committed during the commission of another felony. The underlying felony in Barber's case was armed robbery, because he drove Wyatt's car away and took other items after the slaying.
But according to that felony murder verdict, the jury believed that Barber set out to rob Wyatt -- which is inconsistent with their voluntary manslaughter verdict, Tolley argued.
Barber admitted from the time he was arrested that he stabbed Wyatt to death with a large knife he (Barber) carried on his belt.
But Barber contended he killed Wyatt in self-defense after Wyatt posed as a private detective, asked Barber's help in finding a rural address, then tried to rape Barber on a dark and lonely Franklin County road.
Barber was 17 at the time of the slaying.
The trial judge should have allowed jurors to hear more evidence about Wyatt's history of molesting young boys, the high court ruled when overturning Barber's conviction.
Specifically, the testimony of several north Georgia men who came to court ready to testify that Wyatt had molested them as young boys should have been allowed, the justices ruled.
After more than three years behind bars, Barber has been free on bond since Feb. 19, a week after the CBS News show ''48 Hours'' featured the case. Calls offering financial help flooded in afterward, said Barber's mother and his lawyer.
Barber's case has been in limbo in the court system as more than two years have passed since the high court threw out his conviction.
The trial judge who sentenced Barber to life in prison retired. A second judge was appointed, and that judge asked to be excused from the case. Barber's case is now assigned to an Augusta judge.
Barber's defense lawyer in the trial, Bob Lavender, was subsequently elected Northern Circuit District Attorney, so Lavender had to withdraw as Barber's attorney and was replaced by Tolley.
Tolley intended to take Barber's case from the beginning, he has said, but was unable to do so after being hired to conduct an investigation of alleged cheating in University of Georgia football recruiting.
The man who prosecuted Barber, then-Northern Circuit District Attorney Lindsay Tise, is now a judge and therefore cannot prosecute the case.
Danielsville lawyer Lane Fitzpatrick was appointed to replace Tise, but withdrew after Tolley accused him in court papers of conflict of interest. Former Gov. Zell Miller then appointed the state Office of the Attorney General to prosecute the case. ..Source.. by Lee Shearer, Staff Writer
Barber pleads guilty to manslaughter
Franklin County man maintains his innocence in high-profile case
Ending a four-year drama that attracted national attention, 21-year-old Sterling Barber of Franklin County pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter in the Nov. 27, 1995, stabbing death of Gerald Douglas Wyatt, a Madison County businessman.
Barber entered the plea to avoid the possibility of a life sentence if a jury was to find him guilty of felony murder, according to his lawyer, Ed Tolley of Athens. The plea came as the result of negotiations between Tolley and Stacey Hydrick, the assistant state attorney general prosecuting the case.
Barber was sentenced to five years in prison, to be followed by 12 years on probation, by Senior Judge Bernard J. Mulherin Sr. Mulherin was appointed to hear the Barber case because the first judge to hear the case has retired. The sentence was handed down Tuesday morning in Clarke County Superior Court.Barber went to prison following a 1996 trial in which a Franklin County jury found him guilty of felony murder, armed robbery, motor vehicle theft and aggravated assault in Wyatt's death. At that time, Barber was represented by Bob Lavender, who was appointed to the case by the Franklin County Superior Court.
Mulherin gave credit to Barber for the 39 months he has already served in connection with the case, meaning that he will serve only an additional 21 months in confinement.
Tolley accepted Barber's case after the convictions and successfully appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court for a new trial. The Supreme Court decision to overturn the convictions was based on its view that the trial judge should have allowed jurors to hear more evidence about Wyatt's history of molesting young boys.
Prosecutors contend that Barber fatally stabbed Wyatt while robbing the Madison County businessman on a dark Franklin County dirt road in 1995.
Barber admitted to stabbing Wyatt with a knife he kept on his belt. He has contended that Wyatt, posing as a private detective, asked for his help in finding a rural address and tried to rape him in the secluded location.
The guilty plea that Barber entered Tuesday is known as an ''Alford plea,'' based on a 1970 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of North Carolina vs. Alford.
In that case, a man facing the death penalty for a 1963 murder told the trial judge he would plead guilty to second-degree murder, even though he still maintained his innocence, to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison on the second-degree murder charge and later appealed his case to the Supreme Court.
The court maintained that the man was acting within his rights in pleading guilty to a criminal charge while not admitting guilt for the crime.
''To risk the unknown with a possible jail sentence of 14 years to life, we weren't going to bet against the house again,'' Tolley said Tuesday, explaining the plea decision.
''Sterling continues to maintain his innocence in his plea today based on the probability or possibility that a jury could convict him in a trial. We maintain his innocence under the law but bought out of that risk (of a life sentence).''
Although Barber pleaded guilty to the voluntary man slaughter charge, Tolley said Tuesday that Barber continues to claim he is innocent and killed Wyatt in self-defense.
Tolley said Barber's age was a consideration in his recommendation that his client plead guilty.
''He's 21 years old now,'' Tolley said. ''You can start your life over at 2212. It's much harder to start your life over again at 50.''
Later, Tolley said, ''I think he can have a bountiful life after all this. After all of this, Sterling has become very religious, which I believe is sincere.''
Barber's mother, Judy Barber, wept after the sentencing of her son.
The Barber case made the national spotlight on Feb. 11, when it was featured on the CBS News show ''48 Hours.''
After the show, more than 100 telephone calls were logged by Tolley's office and by Judy Barber, offering monetary help in posting a $175,000 bond to free Barber while he was awaiting a retrial. Barber had been free on that bond since Feb. 19.
Tolley said he expects to be second-guessed by many armchair lawyers on the wisdom of a plea bargain in the Barber case.
''This decision (by Barber) was based solely on my advice,'' Tolley said. ''The simple fact is they (people who might second-guess the decision) wouldn't have to do a life sentence if the jury found him (Barber) guilty of murder.''
Hydrick had no comment Tuesday. ..Source.. by Greg Martin, Staff Writer
From Yahoo Answers:
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I just registered here for this. It meant that much to me too. I called the Franklin County Sheriff's office, 706-384-2525, to get an answer. He plead guilty to manslaughter, got credit for time served and is still on probation living in Alabama. There. My good deed for the day. Best to ya!
2 years ago