Macon man says 2010 murder conviction was wrong

Staff reportOctober 3, 2013 

A Macon man is appealing the murder conviction and life sentence he received in the slaying of his girlfriend.

Tanisha Hardman, 24, was found shot to death behind the Cherry Tree Hill Apartments on Dec. 8, 2008. She was fully clothed, and her money and credit cards were still in her wallet.

Hardman was about a month pregnant. She had told roommates and friends that Melvin Washington Jr., with whom she worked at the Wal-Mart on Gray Highway, was the father, according to a case summary from the Georgia Supreme Court. Washington was not pleased with news of the pregnancy, witnesses said.

The day before she was killed, Hardman told a cousin she was going to meet Washington, who was married, after work to talk to him. She clocked out of work at 8:55 p.m. That same night, Washington and his wife, who had just given birth, had a cookout at their apartment, which was near Hardman’s home.

Prosecutors said Washington left the cookout at one point to take his father back to Warner Robins. On his way back to Macon, Washington called Hardman twice, and he did not return to his own apartment until 9:24 p.m.

During the trial, prosecutors contended that Washington met Hardman and shot her in the back of the head with a gun that belonged to his brother-in-law. The state claimed that Washington killed Hardman because he did not want his wife and another woman with whom he’d had an affair to find out about the pregnancy.

During the trial, Washington admitted that he’d had an affair with Hardman, but he denied meeting her the night of Dec. 7.

On Aug. 20, 2010, a jury found Washington guilty of murder and other counts.

His attorneys contend that his trial attorney did not provide effective legal assistance and that the evidence against him was insufficient to prove his guilt.

Washington’s attorneys say in their appeal that five other men could have fathered Hardman’s unborn child, but Washington’s trial attorney failed to investigate and present evidence to the jury of those five men. Those five, they say, also had reason to kill her.

The trial attorney also was ineffective for failing to call seven witnesses whose testimony would have strengthened the defense’s case that someone other than Washington killed Hardman. They also say that the trial court erred by allowing in evidence of Washington’s past sexual relationship with another woman, which was inadmissible “bad character evidence.”

The state argues that Washington failed to carry the burden of showing that his trial attorney was ineffective.

Washington also failed to demonstrate that the outcome of his trial would have been any different, despite the alleged deficiencies.

The case against Washington may have been circumstantial in some respects, the state said in its response, but it was compelling.

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