Monroe prosecutors seek death penalty against Calmer in deputy killing

FORSYTH -- Prosecutors announced Tuesday they will seek the death penalty against Christopher Keith Calmer, the man accused of fatally shooting a Monroe County deputy last year.

Calmer, 47, is accused of firing shots in a Sept. 13, 2014, shootout at his parents’ Haley Lane home, killing deputy Michael Norris and injuring deputy Jeff Wilson.

Calmer, who was housed by the Georgia Department of Corrections for a stint soon after his arrest last September, walked into a Monroe County courtroom Tuesday wearing a Monroe County jail jumpsuit.

Calmer was dressed in the orange and white uniform after arriving at the Monroe County Justice Center prior to the hearing, but he isn’t being housed at the county jail, according to the sheriff’s office. The location where he is being held hasn’t been released due to security concerns.

Calmer didn’t speak during the brief hearing except to answer the judge when he asked if Calmer was satisfied with his lawyers and if he had any questions about the proceedings.

Calmer declined to speak, citing advice from his lawyers, but he indicated he didn’t have any questions.

He is represented by two attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office, the state agency that provides lawyers for indigent defendants facing a possible death sentence.

Calmer is next scheduled to appear in court Oct. 19 for an arraignment -- a hearing in which he will enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty.

Some motions in the case also may be argued that day, said Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Milam.

Milam said his goal is for the case to go to trial sometime next year.

The death notice filed Tuesday by prosecutors cites two aggravating circumstances as reasons for seeking capital punishment against Calmer. A jury ultimately must decide that at least one of the circumstances has been proven during the trial.

The first circumstance alleges that Calmer committed “murder against a peace officer who was engaged in the performance of his official duties.”

The second alleges he committed murder “during the commission of aggravated battery,” which Milam says stems from allegations that Calmer also shot Wilson.

On Sept. 13, 2014, Norris and Wilson went to Calmer’s parents’ house near Bolingbroke just before 6 p.m. that day. They had received a call that someone there was attempting suicide.

Calmer is accused of shooting Norris in the head. He also allegedly shot Wilson in the leg and buttocks. Wilson’s bulletproof vest kept another bullet from entering his abdomen. Calmer was shot in the leg.

Monroe County grand jurors voted to indict Calmer in May on charges of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer, aggravated battery and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Calmer has been held in custody without bond since his arrest last September.

Calmer is the third person for whom Monroe County prosecutors have announced intentions to seek the death penalty in recent months.

They announced intentions of seeking capital punishment June 17 against Robert Buckner, 35, and Amanda Hendrickson, 33, in the 2014 death of Hendrickson’s daughter, 5-year-old Heaven Woods.

That same day, Buckner pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hendrickson’s case is still pending with motions hearings set for December.

The last Monroe County death penalty case went to trial in 1998.

Andrew Allen Cook was sentenced to death for the 1995 shooting deaths of Mercer University students Michele Cartagena, 19, and Grant Hendrickson, 22, at Lake Juliette. Cook was executed in 2013.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398 or find her on Twitter@awomackmacon.

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