Prosecutors are no longer seeking the death penalty in two Bibb County murder cases.
Maurice Murray Battle, a Macon man charged with the 2009 shooting death of 29-year-old Dipak Danny Patel, now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if hes convicted, prosecutor Sandra Matson said. Patel was killed during a robbery at the Chevron Station at 1257 Riverside Drive.
Anthony Braswell, a Macon man accused of the 2008 deaths of two boys killed in a house fire that Braswell allegedly set, faces the same penalty, District Attorney Greg Winters said.
Prosecutors in both cases filed death penalty notices while then-District Attorney Howard Simms was in office. Simms now is a Superior Court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit.
Winters said his office chooses whether to seek the death penalty -- or remove it -- after reviewing cases and talking with victims families.
I believe there are some cases that merit the ultimate punishment, he said.
Bibb County prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty in four pending murder cases.
In Battles case, defense attorneys recently gave prosecutors evidence that caused them to change their minds. Prosecutors filed a motion removing the death penalty from the case March 15, according to court records.
When we file (for the death penalty), we dont know what the defense has, Matson explained.
Attorney Brad Gardner said the evidence related to the 20-year-old Battles mental health history. He declined to elaborate on specific information provided to the prosecution.
A death penalty case is not just about whether someone did it or not, but whether they should die, Gardner said. Hes not a person who would fit into that case where the death penalty would be appropriate.
Battle has entered a not guilty plea in the case, he said.
The case had been set for trial in June, but it has been postponed due to a scheduling conflict.
Battles defense team filed a motion in November contending that prosecutors should be taken off the case due to an alleged conflict of interest. The motion stemmed from an allegation that Battle conspired to murder two prosecutors, a judge and a woman unrelated to the case.
The defense withdrew the motion after prosecutors said they wouldnt seek the death penalty, Gardner said.
Battle hasnt been indicted in connection with the alleged conspiracy, and prosecutors must file a motion notifying the defense if they plan to raise the allegations at trial in front of a jury, Gardner said.
Cases are pending for Rashard Jean Harris, 27, and Korey Antione Stephens, 27, two other men charged with Patels slaying. Matson said Battle will go to trial first. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Harris and Stephens.
In Braswells case, prosecutors removed the death penalty in October after family members said they wanted closure, Winters said.
Braswell, 40, is accused of pouring gasoline onto a porch at 417 Moseley Ave. to start a fire that ultimately killed 2-year-old Hezekiah Harris and his 4-year-old brother, Tydarious.
A phone message left for the boys father was not returned.
While it often takes years for a death penalty case to go to trial, murder cases can go to trial in as little as a year, Winters said.
More than a hundred motions usually are filed in death penalty cases, and court proceedings draw close scrutiny from the Georgia Supreme Court before trial.
Newell Hamilton, one of Braswells lawyers, said Braswell has pleaded not guilty, and he anticipates a trial to be held within the next year.
Braswell is now serving a prison sentence on an unrelated drug charge, according to prison records.
Shauntrice Murry, Braswells girlfriend, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in 2010, and a judge sentenced her to life in prison. Prosecutors previously had been seeking the death penalty in Murrys case.
Charges are still pending for a second woman, Latoshia Yvette Wyche, who also was charged with murder in the case. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Wyche.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.