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Stocking Strangling Trial To Air Georgia Legal Issues

March 9, 1986

ATLANTA (AP) _ The trial of a man charged with three stranglings is likely to raise some of the same legal issues as two of Georgia’s best-known criminal cases - the Atlanta child murders and the Alday family slayings.

Seven elderly women in Columbus, Ga., were raped and strangled between September 1977 and April 1978. Five were killed with stockings.

Carlton Gary, 35, who was arrested in May 1984, is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Columbus on murder, rape and burglary charges in three of those deaths. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Followill has ordered the lawyers not to talk about Gary’s case. But their previous statements included references to the effect of news coverage, the reason that convictions in the Alday case were overturned, and to pattern cases and fiber evidence, which were critical in the Atlanta slayings case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ last year overturned the murder convictions and death sentences of four defendants in the 1973 murders of six members of the Ned Alday family of Seminole County, saying there had been too much publicity about the case for a fair trial to be held there.

The state plans to appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Gary case, ’virtually all the evidence - for and against - will be scientific,″ defense lawyer Bud Siemon said.

Fiber evidence was critical in the case against Wayne Williams, who was convicted of two of the 29 deaths or disappearances of young blacks in Atlanta from 1979 to 1981.

Williams’ lawyers later argued unsuccessfully that the Georgia Supreme Court should overturn the convictions because the science of fiber evidence was too new to be conclusive. They also contended their fiber expert wasn’t given enough time to examine the evidence.

His lawyers also tried unsuccessfully to persuade the state Supreme Court that the state should not have been allowed to use evidence from 10 cases Williams wasn’t charged with. Prosecutors argued they showed a pattern of crime pointed to Williams.

District Attorney Bill Smith has declined to say whether he will argue that evidence from the four stranglings in which Gary is not charged form a pattern. But an early defense motion said the prosecution was likely to develop a pattern case.

The stranglings terrorized the city of 170,000 on the Georgia-Alabama border. There were appeals for elderly women living alone to move in with friends or relatives. State troopers helped patrol Columbus.

Police suspected Gary when a gun stolen from a car in front of a victim’s home was traced to a man who said he got it from Gary.

Authorities took fiber and hair samples.

The defense contends there was too much publicity about the case for Gary to get a fair trial. A study cited by his lawyers found the case was mentioned on national nightly newscasts six times.

A previous defense attempt to move the trial failed, but another try could be made during jury selection this week.

In both the Columbus and Alday cases, news media reported details of the crimes, the capture of the suspects and information from their criminal records.

In the Columbus case, however, less has been reported about evidence. And, unlike the Alday case, the long interval between the crimes and the arrest made the case an occasional news story.

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