The Georgia Supreme Court sided against a woman facing the death penalty in a Peach County murder case and also upheld a Houston County murder conviction.
In other rulings issued Monday, justices also suspended the license of a Warner Robins attorney for three years and ruled against former Gov. Sonny Perdue in a school board case.
In the Peach County case, justices found that Lillian Walker of Montezuma prematurely filed a motion seeking acquittal on the grounds that her right to a speedy trial was violated.
Walker is accused of the stabbing deaths of her 85-year-old Aunt Lillian Graves and her 65-year-old cousin, Agnes Stewart, both of Fort Valley, in June 2009.
In the attack on the women in their home on Fort Valleys Daniel Drive, Walker allegedly rifled through their purses to steal cash, checks, credit cards and prescription drugs. Walker also was accused of stealing Graves Jeep Cherokee.
Graves, a retired nurse, had recently turned 85. Stewart, a retired Peach County High School teacher, was a deacon at St. Peter AME Church in Fort Valley and a former president of Fort Valleys Habitat For Humanity chapter.
In the Houston County murder case, justices upheld the conviction of Bobbie Charles Shank on malice murder and related charges in the June 27, 1996, attack on a husband and wife in their Warner Robins home.
Shank was convicted of bludgeoning to death 26-year-old Mark Garner after Garner refused to sell him some marijuana because Shank already owed Garner $450. Shank attacked Garner with an instrument like a machete or two-headed ax, the ruling stated. Shank hacked Garner at least seven times in the head before Shank turned to Garners wife, Tracy Garner, who survived the brutal attack.
On the three-year suspension of Warner Robins attorney William M. Peterson from practicing law, the court voted 4-3 in favor of the suspension. Justice David Nahmias issued a written dissent, which was joined by Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Justice Harold Melton, saying Peterson should be disbarred.
The State Bar of Georgia had recommended a one-year suspension, taking into consideration Petersons disability and letters of support from attorneys.
Justices upheld the findings of a special master appointed by the court that Peterson violated rules of professional conduct in connection with the representation of two of his clients in unrelated cases.
For one client, Peterson failed to surrender papers to the client after his representation ceased, and in the regard to the other client, Peterson failed to keep the client reasonably informed about matters and did not respond to the clients request for information promptly.
One of the attorneys who wrote in favor of Peterson noted that the violations occurred when Petersons law practice was dissolving and when he was hospitalized over an extended period of time. Peterson also was accused of making a false statement of material fact in connection with both disciplinary matters.
Justices conditioned his return to the practice of law on certification from a physician or the Lawyers Assistance Program that his physical impairment no longer impedes his ability to practice law.
Peterson could not be reached for comment Monday.
In the Perdue case, justices reversed a Fulton County court decision and ruled that the governor did not have the authority to remove from office three members of the Warren County school board. The ruling states the governor does have authority to remove members of authorities and some boards, but school boards have constitutional protection.
The court rulings may be viewed on the Georgia Supreme Court website at http://www.gasupreme.us.
Staff writer Liz Fabian contributed to this report. Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.