Georgia Supreme Court denies former cop's attempt to rescind murder indictment

The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday said justices affirmed a lower court ruling that denied a former Atlanta Police Department officer to cancel indictments on murder and other charges.

James Rolfe Burns fatally shot 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers on June 22, 2016, in Fulton County. He was charged with murder and fired by the Atlanta Police Department, then re-indicted about two years later after Burns fought the original grand jury decision. 

Burns contested, when he was re-indicted in September 2018, that he had a right to present evidence and make a statement to a grand jury during proceedings, without being subjected to cross-examination, according to an amendment to Georgia Code that took effect days after the deadly shooting. 

A trial court denied his motion, so Burns appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, which announced its affirmation of the lower court's decision. 


"Consistent with our precedent distinguishing between substantive and procedural laws, we conclude the trial court erred when it assumed that the statutes at issue are substantive rather
than procedural in nature," Justice Colvin wrote. "As this Court has explained, a "procedural law is that law which prescribes the methods of enforcement of rights, duties, and obligations.’" 

The 2016 statutory amendments "merely changed the procedures for providing notice of a grand jury hearing to an accused police officer and the procedures under which an accused officer may be present," the court wrote. 

Burns faces felony murder, aggravated assault and two counts of violation of oath by a public officer.

On June 22, 2016, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Burns shot and killed Rogers. The shooting happened in the 2100 block of Monroe Drive. Burns was called to the Monroe Place apartment complex to look for a car break-in suspect. The GBI said Rogers posed no threat to Burns when the former officer opened fire on him as he drove out of the complex.

Investigators said Burns shot the 22-year-old in the head. Medics took Rogers to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he later died.

Atlanta police fired Burns after he was charged with felony murder.

Burns was released from jail on bond on July 22.

Burns' attorney said the former officer was only trying to defend himself.