COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Attorneys for accused murderer Michael Curry say prejudice exists in the high profile case because evidence has been lost and witnesses that could help prove his innocence have passed away.
Curry is accused of slaying his wife and small children with a bush axe inside their Columbus home back in the 1980s.
He was arrested and charged with their deaths last year, more than 20 years after the crime.
In court Thursday, Curry's lawyer, Robert Wadkins, said a confession from a man by the name of Jeffery Blacker is missing. Blacker was an inmate at a West Central Georgia Mental Hospital in Columbus who allegedly escaped the night before the murders. Wadkins says a palm print found at the crime scene on Rockhurst Drive was found to have similarities to Blacker but that evidence is also missing.
District Attorney Julia Slater confirms the state is still searching for the material. She says she has a supplemental police report that references Blacker's confession to the crime but not the actual police report. Slater told the judge she does have Blacker's retraction statement. In regards to the palm print, Slater says the it has not been found but detectives eliminated Blacker as the person who left it because it was "child size."
Wadkins told Chief Muscogee County Superior Court Judge John Allen the coroner at the time also made statements about the time of the victims' deaths but the coroner has since passed away, along with other witnesses.
More evidence was discussed, including taped statements Curry allegedly made at the Columbus Police Station after the murders. The District Attorney says she only has one of two tapes containing the statements but does have a transcription of the missing tape.
Slater says she has not been able to get her hands on a Sears receipt from shopping Curry's wife had reportedly done the day she was killed in terms of a timeline of events but she told the judge she does have a Kmart receipt from a purchase Curry made that day.
Wadkins and Slater also went back and forth on the long delay in the case. Wadkins says the state has not offered any reason for explanation for the delay from the 1985 crime to Curry's 2009 arrest. Wadkins noted how no police reports were made from 1992-1995 and 1999-2007. Slater says that doesn't mean the case was not being investigated. Detective Randy Long, a cold case investigator for the Columbus Police Department, told the court the murder case has been continuously worked on by detectives through the years leading up to his arrest.
Wadkins also argued Curry's right to a speedy trial. He says even though Curry was never charged back in the 1980s, he was arrested after the murders and the right to a speedy trial attaches at arrest.
Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren, who was a detective at the time of the slayings, testified previously that Curry was not arrested, only questioned. Julia Slater said the Georgia law is clear that no matter if an arrest is made, if charges are not pending against a suspect, then time simply does not count for a speedy trial. Curry, she says, was never charged or incarcerated until 24 years after the crimes. Judge Allen agreed with her that Curry's right to a speedy trial has not been violated based on the law.
When it comes to due process in the case, Judge Allen is still considering whether any violations have been made against Curry. Allen says the state has not intentionally delayed the case to gain tactical advantage but he does acknowledge some prejudices do exist, like the loss of an alleged confession and a palm print from the scene. He told both sides he is shaping an order pertaining to due process but does not find anything that rises to the level of reckless disregard.
Curry had also requested his personal Bible and notebook be returned to him. Judge Allen said the court cannot force the state to hand over their evidence but prosecutors did make copies of certain pages for Curry to have.
Allen told the state and the defense that he wants to "get this case over with as soon as possible" and expects all of the necessary steps to be taken so a trial date can be set. Before ending the hearing, Allen said he would like to see the case go to trial by the end of this year.
Michael Curry is being held in the Muscogee County Jail.