BARROW COUNTY, Ga. - It was a highly unusual move by a Barrow County judge who overturned a jury’s verdict in a murder case.
One of the jurors, Steve Charters, spoke exclusively to FOX 5 News about his disappointment in judge David Motes and his decision to step in as the so-called 13th juror clause.
“I still remember what the judge told us when he said it’s up to you to decide what the truth is what the facts are,” said Charters.
He said as a juror in the murder trial of Paul Hamilton he took those words to heart.
Investigators said Hamilton shot and killed Brandon Lay who was in a car at this intersection in October 2015.
They said Hamilton confronted people in the car after his home had been burglarized.
The police report indicated when someone in the car grabbed Hamilton he shot into the vehicle, saying ‘that’s when I shot him deader than blank.’
“We found him guilty of three counts of aggravated assault, one count of felony murder. We found him not guilty of malice murder,” said Charters.
An engineer by trade, Charters kept detailed jury notes. He said he and other jurors came to a unanimous verdict based on the evidence.
Two weeks later their verdict was overturned by presiding Judge David Motes who according to trial transcripts said ‘the court believes that the evidence was decidedly and strongly against the weight of the evidence to support a conviction.’
He granted Hamilton a new trial, evoking a 13th juror clause.
“Talking to attorney friends and people in the prosecuting world they say its talked about but it’s never been used,” said Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith.
The sheriff said he, the victim’s family, prosecuting attorneys, and jurors were all shocked by the judge's rare 13th jurors ruling for Hamilton.
“I feel like the facts were there. I feel like we provided the DA’s office a good case to follow,” said Sheriff Smith.
Steve Charters also believes the evidence was there. He said he only wanted to do his civic duty as a juror.
“Everyone of us in that room took our duty and jury instructions very seriously. I just don’t see how he could not see what twelve of us saw in that jury room,” said Charters.
FOX 5 News was unable to reach Judge Motes who has retired from the bench.
Another thing that irked Charters and others is that Motes let Hamilton out of jail on bond.