Brandon Conner's attorney requests murder charges to be dropped

Columbus attorney says GA death penalty violates international laws

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - During a preliminary motions hearing on Monday, the attorney of a Columbus man accused of killing his girlfriend and infant son argued the constitutionality of his death penalty sentencing.

Brandon Conner faces two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated battery, one count of felony arson and using a knife to commit a felony. Police say he stabbed his girlfriend Rosella Mitchell and set their home on fire killing Mitchell and 6-month-old son Dylan Mitchell.

Conner was indicted by a grand jury in April 2014, and shortly after the district attorney's office announced its plan to seek the death penalty.

Nearly 30 motions were filed Monday by the defense, including a motion to exclude before and after life photos of the victims from the trial, a motion to include police body camera footage and a motion to include the 911 call as evidence in the jury trial.

Defense attorneys Mark Shelnutt and William Kendrick presented the International Covenant of Civil and Political rights as a basis for their claim that the death penalty is a violation of international law. The district attorney's office opposed their motion on the basis that state law trumps international law.

Shelnutt and Kendrick also requested two of the murder charges either be d ropped or tried separately, arguing that malice murder requires a weapon and although the coroner confirmed stab wounds as the cause of death for Mitchell, the cause of death for the infant remains undetermined. 

Kendrick also mentioned investigating the DA's history of death penalty indictments to determine whether or not African Americans are disproportionately sentenced to death.

We reached out to the district attorney for comment, but they declined saying that the attorney's on both sides have agreed to a gag order.

The prosecution and defense agreed to finalize eleven motions before the next hearing.

The other motions will be determined by Judge Rumor at the next preliminary hearing on Feb. 15.

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