ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - The Georgia Supreme Court has denied an appeal by the man accused of killing teacher and former beauty queen Tara Grinstead asking for the state to pay for expert witnesses when his case goes to trial.
In a unanimous decision, the court said it did not have authority to consider Ryan Duke's appeal, saying that Duke and his lawyers had to first obtain a "certificate of immediate review" from the trial court.
This appeal came after Duke's attorneys, who took over his case pro bono, asked for state funding to pay for defense experts and an independent investigator. A lower court denied that motion, saying that Duke was not "constitutionally entitled to experts and investigators funded by the State" since he's not using a public defender.
The high court had previously decided to delay the trial to consider Duke's emergency pre-trial appeal.
Authorities arrested Duke in February 2017, more than a decade after Grinstead disappeared from her Oscilla home. Investigators said he used a credit card to break into her home, strangled the beauty pageant winner, and then asked his friend Bo Dukes to help cover up the crime.
Prosecutors said the two did just that by burning the 30-year-old's body in the Dukes family's pecan orchard over the course of several days.
Duke's case is being handled by three private pro-bono attorneys who argue the murder suspect is legally defined as an indigent person and therefore qualifies for the state funding exclusively afforded to public defenders.
In March, a Wilcox County jury convicted Bo Dukes for his role in covering up the murder. The following day, Judge Robert Chasteen sentenced Dukes to the maximum 25 years in prison.
During sentencing, Bo Dukes told the Grinstead family he “failed Tara” and “failed her family.”
“I pray for your forgiveness,” Dukes said.
After the sentencing, Tara Grinstead's sister told FOX 5’s Portia Bruner she was not moved by Dukes’ tears and said if he felt any remorse, he would've confessed years ago.
Ryan Duke is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, burglary, and concealing a death.