Supreme Court of Ga. grants new trial to man convicted rape, murder more than 40 years ago

Updated: Mar. 13, 2020 at 3:58 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the Muscogee County court’s decision to grant a new trial to a man convicted of a 1976 rape and murder.

Johnny Lee Gates, then 21, was arrested and charged with the murder, rape and armed robbery of 19-year-old Katharina Wright in Columbus.

Gates was convicted 1977 and sentenced to death. That conviction and sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1979.

In 2003, Gates was re-sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after the State agreed to remove the death penalty following a mistrial on the question of intellectual disability.

Gates’ attorneys located a bathrobe belt and four neckties that had been used to bind Wright in the office of the district attorney. These items were believed to have been destroyed following Gates’ trial. The items were then tested for DNA and results showed that the items had DNA on them, but not Gates’ DNA.

Gates was granted a new trial on the basis of this DNA evidence and the fact that the State’s case was predicated on Gates being barehanded when committing the crime.

There is no date as to when this new trial will take place.

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