Crime

Accused killer of two deputies not to wear jail garb, shackles in court, judge rules

Accused deputy killer declines to speak at hearing

Asked if he wanted to talk about his satisfaction with his attorneys during a May 22, 2017, Peach County Superior Court hearing, Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. declined to speak. Elrod is charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Peach County Sheriff
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Asked if he wanted to talk about his satisfaction with his attorneys during a May 22, 2017, Peach County Superior Court hearing, Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. declined to speak. Elrod is charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Peach County Sheriff

Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr., the Byron man charged with murder in the 2016 fatal shooting of two Peach County deputies appeared in court Monday for a pretrial hearing.

Elrod could face the death penalty if convicted of murder in the Nov. 6 incident at his home that resulted in the deaths of Deputy Daryl Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron. Elrod was injured in a shootout with police and has been jailed since his release from the hospital.

Franklin J. Hogue, one of Elrod’s lawyers, argued motions, asking the judge to prohibit Elrod from being seen in court wearing jail garb or shackles.

Hogue said potential jurors who view media coverage could become biased against Elrod if they saw him in such attire and with the restraints.

Superior Court Judge Ed Ennis granted the motions, but said his ruling doesn’t limit the sheriff from using restraining devices not visible to the public. He added that Elrod isn’t to be seen in public while in jail clothing if civilian clothes are available.

Elrod was dressed in a short-sleeved striped shirt and pants during Monday’s hearing.

The judge said his ruling on the shackles is subject to change depending on Elrod’s courtroom behavior.

Elrod’s next hearing, an arraignment, is set for July 6.

Hogue, who represents Elrod along with two attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office, presented an argument that prosecutors should respond in writing to each motion filed.

Hogue also argued the constitutionality of a court procedure requiring judges in death penalty cases to ask a defendant about his satisfaction with his lawyers at each hearing.

The questioning is meant to gauge whether a defendant is receiving effective help from his attorney or attorneys, but in cases such as Elrod’s — when the defendant isn’t a lawyer — “he wouldn’t know what he should and shouldn’t say,” Hogue said.

Prosecutor Cynthia Adams argued the Georgia Supreme Court has held that the questioning is constitutional.

If a defendant doesn’t want to speak, he doesn’t have to, she said.

Ennis said he would issue written rulings on the last two motions.

When questioned at the end of Monday’s hearing if he wanted to talk about his satisfaction with his lawyers, Elrod shook his head that he didn’t want to speak.

Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. appears in court for the first time since the notice to seek the death penalty was filed against him in the Nov. 6, 2016 fatal shooting of two Peach County deputies.

Sondron and Smallwood had gone to Elrod’s house Nov. 6 to talk with him about a complaint that he’d threatened a neighbor’s nephews who’d been riding a four-wheeler and a motorcycle in front of his home.

A few seconds into a conversation with Elrod, Sondron reached out as if he was going to take Elrod into custody and Elrod pulled a handgun from his waistband.

Elrod shot the deputies before going back inside his house, authorities have said.

When more officers arrived, Elrod came out of his garage carrying a rifle and wearing a bulletproof vest. He was wounded in a shootout with police.

Sondron died soon after the shooting.

Smallwood died two days later.

Elrod is being held at the Bibb County jail as he awaits trial.

His next hearing, an arraignment, is set for July 6.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon

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