Court axes conviction of woman whose husband killed officer
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s highest court has reversed the felony murder conviction of a woman whose husband shot and killed a police officer.
In an opinion published Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court said prosecutors failed to prove that Lisa Ann Lebis “jointly possessed” the gun used to kill the officer. The court reversed the murder conviction for which she had been sentenced to life in prison without parole, but upheld her convictions for weapons possession and two counts of obstruction of a police officer.
Tremaine Lebis fatally shot Clayton County police officer Sean Callahan at a Motel 6 just south of Atlanta in December 2012 and then was killed by another officer, court documents say. A jury in February 2014 convicted Lisa Ann Lebis of felony murder and other charges in Callahan’s death.
Her lawyers appealed to the high court, noting that she was not even physically present when her husband shot Callahan. Prosecutors had used the “party to a crime” statute — which says everyone concerned in the commission of a crime can be charged with that crime — to get a murder conviction.
Lisa and Tremaine Lebis were both convicted felons and had been staying in the Motel 6 in Stockbridge for about a week when they were evicted for late payment. Lisa Lebis yelled and cursed at the clerk when she learned they would have to leave, prompting the clerk to call police, according to court filings.
After Callahan and Officer Waymondo Brown arrived, spoke to motel staff and approached the room, they saw the couple removing items from the room and stacking them outside. In the room were dog feces, broken furniture and an overwhelming odor of feces and urine.
The officers decided to arrest the pair and began with Tremaine Lebis because they could see he had a pocketknife, court filings say. Lisa Lebis began to shout at them, and Tremaine Lebis broke free and fled, prosecutors said.
As the officers chased him toward the back of the motel, Tremaine Lebis pulled a gun out of a fanny pack they hadn’t noticed and shot Callahan, court filings say. Brown fired back, hitting Tremaine Lebis, and then went to help Callahan, who had fallen 10 feet over a retaining wall.
As Brown performed CPR on Callahan, Lisa Lebis appeared above him at the wall “going bonkers,” he testified. Uncertain whether she was armed, he stopped doing CPR for about 50 seconds to draw his own weapon until he could see her hands and verify that she was unarmed, court filings say.
Backup officers arrived and arrested Lisa Lebis.
The court ruled that based on the evidence, Tremaine, not his wife, had sole possession of the .357-caliber Glock when Callahan was shot. It said there was no evidence that Lisa Lebis had the intention or ability to exercise control over the gun.
Justice Britt Grant wrote in the unanimous opinion that the evidence was insufficient to support the charge of felony murder.
This story has been corrected to say the officer was killed in 2012.