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Georgia Supreme Court upholds convictions of 2 men in murder of Hall County deputy

By Austin Eller News Director

The Georgia Supreme Court this week upheld the murder convictions of two men who were tried together in 2021 in connection with the July 2019 shooting death of Hall County Deputy Sheriff Blane Dixon.

London Clements and Eric Velazquez were two of the four men convicted in Hall County Court in 2021.

The Supreme Court of Georgia announced Tuesday morning the convictions of Clements and Velazquez were confirmed following an attempted appeal from the two men.

Dixon was fatally shot during an attempt to stop and apprehend the four suspects, who were implicated in several burglaries in the Hall County area. Hector Garcia-Solis was sentenced to a life prison term for his role as the gunman in the incident. Meanwhile, Velazquez and Clements were both given life prison sentences with the possibility of parole after three decades behind bars. Clements was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary and felony murder predicated on conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary. Velazquez was convicted of malice murder, felony murder predicated on aggravated assault on a peace officer, felony murder predicated on conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary, aggravated assault on a peace officer, and other charges

Clements and Velazquez attempted to challenge their convictions through separate arguments, but Tuesday's consolidated opinion authored by Justice Shawn Ellen LaGrua applies to both men.

Clements argued that the trial court was in error by denying his motion for a directed verdict on the conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary count and the corresponding felony murder count. He argued that he and his co-defendants conspired only to commit burglaries, not robberies and burglaries. He further argued that it was not reasonably foreseeable that someone could be killed as the result of a conspiracy to commit burglaries, particularly burglaries of unoccupied businesses.

“We see no merit to these claims,” wrote Justice LaGrua. “Under these circumstances, it was reasonably foreseeable that Clements and his co-conspirators could encounter law enforcement and that someone could be killed during the commission of these crimes."

LaGrua noted that Clements and his co-conspirators were traveling in a stolen car with two of them carrying loaded firearms on the night of the shooting.

Clements also argued that the trial court was in error by denying his motion for a new trial because the verdict was not supported by the evidence.

“We conclude that the trial court exercised its discretion as the thirteenth juror here,” Justice LaGrua writes. “During the hearings on Clements’ motion for a new trial and in the trial court’s order denying the motion, the trial court ‘expressly rejected’ Clements’s ‘general grounds' claim, and stated that it reviewed and weighed the evidence presented, assessed the credibility of the witnesses, and ‘acting as the thirteenth juror,’ concluded that the State presented sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict and ‘to find Clements guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Clements has ‘offered no basis for concluding otherwise.’” 

In the appeal from Velazquez, he argued that the evidence against him was not sufficient to sustain his convictions for malice murder and felony murder predicated on aggravated assault on a peace officer. Velazquez claimed that there was no evidence to show that he or the other co-defendants were going to shoot Dixon. He also argued that he abandoned any criminal attempt when he ran and tried to hide after he crashed the getaway car.

The Supreme Court concluded that there was in fact sufficient evidence to uphold Velazquez's conviction for malice murder.

“In this case, Velazquez was charged individually and as a party concerned in the commission of malice murder, and thus, the State did not need to prove that Velazquez fatally shot Deputy Dixon—‘it was enough to prove that he was a party to the crime,’” Justice LaGrua wrote.

Additionally, Velazquez argued that the trial court was in error by denying his motion for a directed verdict on the count of conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary because there was no corroborating evidence that he was involved in a plan to commit a burglary on the night of the incident.

The opinion stated that two of Velasquez's accomplices testified at trial about his conduct before, during and after the crimes, which corroborated his participation in and planning of the crimes. Therefore, the court concluded the evidence was enough to support his conviction. 

“As Sheriff, I can tell you Blane Dixon’s murder continues to impact the men and women who worked with him at the Hall County Sheriff’s Office," Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement. "To that end, I’m thankful to the justices of the Georgia Supreme Court for upholding the convictions of London Clements and Eric Velazquez in the senseless killing of Deputy Dixon. As a community, we sought justice for Deputy Dixon’s family and we received it through our Superior Court in Hall County.  The state’s high court has rightfully affirmed the lower court decision.”

The full opinion from the Georgia Supreme Court can be read here.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: Georgia Supreme Court, London Clements, Blane Dixon, Eric Velasquez
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