Justices to review 2005 Bibb County murder case

The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in a death penalty case from a 2005 Bibb County murder.

Representatives of the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office and members of Jomekia Pope’s defense team will be making arguments in front of the court about certain rulings made in Bibb County Superior Court in 2007.

Pope has been charged with malice murder and arson in the death of his former girlfriend Latosha Taylor, who was attacked in August 2005 after being doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Taylor, 26, suffered second- and third-degree burns over 95 percent of her body and died in the Augusta Burn Center in October of that year.

Both sides have aspects of the case they want to appeal.

On the prosecution side, the district attorney’s office originally charged Pope with felony murder as well, said assistant district attorney Greg Winters, but that charge was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Phillip Brown because the judge decided it was too similar to the malice murder charge.

“Basically, it was dismissed in regards to some of the wording (in the charge),” Winters said.

The prosecution is appealing Brown’s decision to throw out the second murder charge.

Taylor is being represented by attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defenders Office.

The attorneys want several aspects of the case to be ruled inadmissible, according to information from the state Supreme Court.

Attorneys Gerald Word and Dennis Francis Jr. will try to convince the court that Pope’s previous criminal history shouldn’t be allowed because they are too dissimilar to what he is accused of in this case.

A phone message was left Friday with the defense attorneys.

During the 2007 hearing, a Minneapolis police officer testified about two incidents of domestic violence between Pope and a Minnesota woman who is the mother of his four children.

Pope pleaded guilty to burglarizing the woman’s house in 1998 and later pleaded guilty to felony assault when he attacked the woman and her mother with a knife during a 2000 incident, prosecutors said.

Pope had also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in an incident involving Taylor back in 2004, prosecutors said.

In addition to Pope’s criminal history, defense lawyers are also trying to get withheld the results of a sealed psychological evaluation ordered by Brown. They also want the court to disallow statements Taylor made to the 911 operator and to Charlene Vanderhoff, a neighbor of Taylor who called 911 when Taylor left her home after being burned.

Winters said Pope’s case hasn’t yet gone to trial. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, it could change how prosecutors approach the case, he said.

“A lot of it depends on who we can call at trial and what evidence we can use,” he said. “We don’t know what affect the rulings may have.”

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.