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Friday July 31st, 2015 5:31PM

Murder cases from White, Stephens counties to be heard by Supreme Court

By Ken Stanford Reporter
ATLANTA - White County prosecutors go before the Georgia Supreme Court Tuesday in a second appeal of a county judge's ruling granting a new trial to a man convicted of murder and given a life sentence. The high court is also scheduled to hear an appeal in a Stephens County murder case that same day.

This is the second time the State of Georgia is appealing a White County judge s ruling granting a new trial to a man who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Sam Abernathy was convicted in November 2008 of the murder of Darren Ramey earlier that year during an altercation at the Southside Bar in Helen. John Geren, who was with Abernathy, was also charged in the case but the charges against him were dismissed and he testified for the prosecution at Abernathy's trial.

Abernathy claims he stabbed Ramey in self-defense and he appealed for a new trial which was granted by a White County Superior Court judge. However, the state Supreme Court reversed that judge's decision. Nevertheless, the lower court again granted Abernathy a new trial based on additional evidence that was presented it in a new appeal.

So, the state is appealing again and that is the matter the high court will hear on Tuesday. In his latest motion, the District Attorney argues that the new evidence is "not new evidence sufficient to authorize a new trial."

STEPHENS COUNTY CASE

In the Stephens County case, Anthony C. Merritt is appeal the conviction and the "life without parole" sentence he was given for killing his roommate, Jerron Jackson, in Toccoa on July 31, 2011.

Merritt was convicted of killing Jackson after the victim came outside the mobile home they shared and argued with Merritt about Merritt's shooting a gun. A witness said Meritt, who appeared under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and Jackson walked back into the mobile home.

Later that day, though, she said she heard what sounded like firecrackers or gunshots from the trailer.

Stephens County sheriff's deputies responded to the scene and found Jackson dead in Merritt's bedroom and Merritt lying on the bed, sobbing.

Merritt s attorney argues that the lawyer who represented Merritt during his trial was incompetent and ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from authorities "illegal entry" into the trailer.

Representing the State, the District Attorney and Attorney General argue Merritt s trial attorney was not ineffective for declining to file a motion to suppress the evidence authorities retrieved from the trailer. Rather, they say, the attorney made "a strategic decision" not to file such a motion because he didn t feel he had a legal basis.
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