Public defender decries lack of funds in Jolly case

A lack of public defender funding dominated discussions during a hearing Wednesday for Damon Jolly, one of two men charged with killing a Bibb County deputy nearly three years ago.

The state’s public defender system has sustained funding cuts for years, and it is under legislators’ scrutiny after Atlanta courthouse gunman Brian Nichols’ defense team racked up a bill that could top $2 million.

Jolly, 23, and Antron Fair, 24, are charged with killing deputy Joseph Whitehead as he helped serve a no-knock warrant at a house off Montpelier Avenue on March 23, 2006. Both men could face the death penalty if convicted.

While discussing progress in the case Wednesday, Jeffrey Grube, one of Jolly’s court-appointed attorneys, said he hadn’t been paid for his work in the case since early 2008.

Jolly’s other attorney, James Stokes, said it’s questionable whether he will be able to hire an expert he needs to consult on the case.

“There are funding issues,” he said. “I hope this issue with funding for experts will be resolved.”

Stokes, an employee of the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office, joined Jolly’s legal team after Richard Hagler, an attorney in private practice, asked to be removed from the case because of the funding crisis.

Prosecutors have filed a motion about a possible conflict of interest because both Stokes and one of Fair’s lawyers work in the Capital Defender’s Office. Fair and Jolly are being tried separately.

Judge Tripp Self denied the motion in September, but prosecutors asked the judge to reconsider the issue in October and again this week. Self did not rule on the issue Wednesday.

Jolly was previously scheduled to stand trial in Savannah, with jury selection slated to begin Jan. 12 at one time,

But Fair and Jolly were reindicted Sept. 23 in a 34-count indictment that also includes drug and firearm offenses. Jolly pleaded not guilty to the new charges at the hearing Wednesday.

Near the end of the hearing, Grube asked the judge and sheriff’s deputies to grant Jolly permission to hug his mother. His request was granted. Moments after the judge left the courtroom, Jolly and his mother shared a short embrace.

Jolly grasped his mother with both arms, patting her back gently. His mother gave him a kiss on the cheek before deputies led him away.

Two other men, 23-year-old Thomas Porter and 31-year-old Hassan Shirell Harclerode also are charged with murder in the case because of their alleged participation in drug activity, but they are not facing the death penalty.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives and The Associated Press was included in this report.