Macon attorney Franklin J. Hogue will help defend the man accused in the dismemberment slaying of Lauren Giddings, a woman Hogue taught at Mercer University’s law school in the months before she was killed.
Hogue, who has death penalty trial experience, joins lawyer Floyd Buford, who has represented murder suspect Stephen McDaniel since McDaniel was jailed last summer.
“It was always my intention to form a defense team for Stephen,” Buford said. “Frank is an excellent criminal trial attorney.”
In the weeks after McDaniel, 26, was charged with killing Giddings, his law-school classmate and next-door neighbor, Buford took Hogue to the Bibb County jail to meet McDaniel.
“One of the things what we wanted to overcome was to make sure that it was all right with him (McDaniel) that I knew Lauren Giddings,” Hogue said Thursday.
Hogue, who didn’t know McDaniel, had been one of Giddings’ instructors in her final semester of law school in a course on criminal trial techniques.
“There’s no concern there by anybody,” Hogue said. “I’m comfortable with it. I’m especially comfortable with it since it’s a death-penalty case.”
Hogue, 57, an Indiana native who has master’s degrees in theology and philosophy, graduated from Mercer’s law school in 1991.
Since 2001, he has represented five defendants in death-penalty cases. None has been sent to death row. Three of the cases had Bibb County ties.
Hogue represented Crystal Mae Wagner, who pleaded guilty to murder and concealing a death in 2010 in the 2005 killing of her husband, Bobby Gene Wagner. She was sentenced to life in prison. Wagner and her boyfriend, Shay Alan Morey, killed Bobby Wagner in a motel near Interstate 475 and later tried to hide his dismembered body in Twiggs County.
Another Hogue client, Thomas Jeff Gaillard II, was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life plus 25 years in 2003 after he pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a convenience store owner in December 2000. Gaillard and two other men held up the Amoco station on Bloomfield Road, where Gaillard shot 63-year-old Surendragini “Sam” Goswami.
Hogue also represented Tony Hurst, who was convicted in the 2002 Thanksgiving Day murders of Sara “Von” Hawkins and her 9-year-old son, Christopher Willis, at their Ivory Street apartment. Hurst stabbed Hawkins 37 times and slashed her son’s throat. He was sentenced to life without parole.
In 2005, a Dodge County man Hogue represented was found not guilty in a 2002 triple killing there. It wasn’t a capital case. Upon acquittal, the elated defendant, after hugging family members in the courtroom, told a reporter, “I want to thank my God and the law office of Frank Hogue.”
‘Oppose the death penalty’
Hogue said Thursday that he became “especially interested” in defending McDaniel when Bibb prosecutors announced their intentions to seek the ultimate punishment.
“I oppose the death penalty,” Hogue said. “I think it’s uncivilized, ineffective and ought to go. ... I don’t think this should be a death-penalty case. My efforts will be to stop that from happening, and I’m happy to be involved for Stephen to do that.”
While Buford has never taken a death-penalty case to trial, he has handled post-conviction appeals for defendants sentenced to death. Buford said he talked to other lawyers about assisting him in representing McDaniel, but that he deemed Hogue best suited for it. He and Hogue have worked together on a number of cases.
“We make a pretty good team,” Hogue said.
McDaniel’s next court appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, where he will formally be told that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Lawyers in the case also will go over the intricate rules of capital-punishment cases and discuss a date for when McDaniel will be arraigned on the murder charge. At the arraignment, McDaniel will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
“Stephen is doing fine for his situation,” Buford said. “He is absolutely adamant that he is not guilty of the charges. Obviously he’d rather be home with his mother and father, but he understands probably better than other defendants -- because he’s been through law school -- what’s involved in the legal process.”
Hogue said McDaniel’s defense will be paid for privately and won’t be taxpayer funded as many capital cases are.
“The family wanted to go private,” Hogue said, “instead of letting the capital defenders do the case, even though they’re quite good. ... We just had to wait for them to work out the funding.”
Giddings, 27, a Maryland native whose dismembered torso was found in a garbage bin outside her Georgia Avenue apartment on June 30, had been preparing to move to Atlanta after graduating from law school in May. She was studying for the Georgia bar exam. She was last heard from June 25.
Now, nearly seven months later, results of FBI and GBI tests on evidence potentially linked to her death are still incomplete.
A silver-and-gold rope bracelet that belonged to Giddings, one her boyfriend gave her for Christmas in 2010 -- and one he thought was missing -- turned out not to be lost after all.
Giddings’ sister, Kaitlyn Wheeler, said Thursday that her family has had the bracelet all along, that there had been some confusion over which piece of Lauren’s jewelry hadn’t been accounted for. A diamond necklace Lauren’s boyfriend gave her on her 26th birthday has not been found.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.