ATLANTA — Attorneys for a man convicted of driving the getaway car in a debutante's slaying contended Tuesday he was the victim of overzealous Savannah prosecutors who blocked him from presenting an alibi in a case that rattled the coastal city.
Kevin Huckabee's attorneys asked the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn his murder conviction. They argued that the trial's outcome would have been different had he been allowed to present phone records that could have shown he was making a phone call from a home number when Jennifer Ross was shot.
But in a spirited hearing, prosecutors countered that the alleged alibi was flawed and that Huckabee's attorneys strategically waited until just before trial to offer that argument. Had it been allowed, it would have taken at least 10 days to investigate, but it would have still been refuted, said prosecutor Christine Barker.
Huckabee was one of three men convicted in December 2006 of killing Ross, a 19-year-old Mercer University student who was shot in the back during a Christmas Eve 2005 mugging that sparked outrage among civic leaders and safety advocates. Ross was shot hours after being presented as a debutante at the city's Christmas Cotillion.
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The state's top court has already upheld the murder convictions and life sentences imposed on Michael Thorpe and Webster Wilson, but has yet to rule on the case of Huckabee, who was also sentenced to life behind bars.When Wilson and Thorpe tried to steal Ross' purse, she attempted to flee and Thorpe shot her in the back, according to court records. Huckabee, meanwhile, had arranged to get the keys of a stolen Ford Taurus to drive the group to and from the robbery, the records show.
Huckabee attorney Steven Sparger told the justices that his client's trial lawyers didn't purposely withhold alibi evidence. He said they simply didn't find the phone records amid the avalanche of documents until just days before the trial was set to start.
"He had a defense, but it was excluded," said Sparger. "These lawyers in the public defenders office are excellent. They just missed something. It happens."
But Barker said the defense attorneys' attempt to present alibi evidence came too late, and she suggested that it would be faulty regardless. For one, she said, one of Huckabee's relatives could have made the phone call.
She added, "And it was absolutely appropriate for the court to exclude it."