Supreme Court appeal stalls Clayton murder sentence

Supreme Court appeal stalls Clayton murder sentence

A Clayton County woman found guilty of murder for planning the 2011 beating death of her mother has appealed her prosecution to the state Supreme Court, claiming double jeopardy, and is also accusing prosecutors of intimidating a witness.

Kajul Harvey, 23, faces at least life in prison, and was to be sentenced Tuesday for a host of convictions related to the death of Alena Marble. Harvey had been found guilty of malice murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, concealing a death and evidence tampering.

But Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew O. Simmons said an appeal Harvey’s attorney Lloyd Matthews filed just before the trial put sentencing on hold.

“That’s going to delay everything,” Matthews told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday following the abbreviated sentencing hearing. “That throw’s a monkey wrench into the sentencing.”

Matthews’ actions in a previous attempt to try this case – he disobeyed the judge’s orders not to tell the jury information about his client – led to a mistrial.

The defense attorney subsequently claimed that the judge erroneously declared the mistrial, and claimed that allowing prosecution of the same case and charges a second time would constitute double jeopardy.

“When the judge declared a mistrial, there was no manifest necessity … no legal requirement that he do so,” Matthews said Tuesday. “By him doing so and, by the state proceeding again against the accused would put them in double jeopardy.”

In a pretrial motion, Matthew claimed that lead prosecutor, Clayton County chief deputy assistant district attorney Katie Powers pressured Brittany Franklin, a key witness in the trial, to lie.

“They’re pressuring her to say that Kajul Harvey’s mother told her that she (Marble) was afraid her daughter was going to harm her,” Matthews wrote on May 6.

Powers denied Matthews’ allegations, pointing to a later motions hearing on the issue in which Franklin testified to hearing the kidnapping plan from Harvey, then changing the story after visiting Harvey in jail.

“We think all of his allegations are completely meritless,” she said.

Judge Simmons also rebuked the defense attorney’s claims in a notice denying his double jeopardy plea.

“The Court finds that the plea of double jeopardy is frivolous,” Simmons wrote in his June 5th order.

Matthews filed notice to appeal to the Supreme Court the next day.

Should the Supreme Court side with Matthews and Harvey, all charges that are similar in both cases – including the count of malice murder – could be impacted, University of Georgia law professor Ronald Carlson said.

“A double jeopardy ruling would bar sentencing on some of the most serious counts in this case,” Carson said.

And the case could take as much as a year, or even more before state Supreme Court justices rule on the appeal, authorities said.

“I’m going to go ahead with my appeal and see what the Georgia Supreme Court has to say,” Matthews said, noting he also appealed the validity of evidence presented in the trial to the Supreme Court.

Until any such decision is made, Harvey will remain in the Clayton County jail.

“We’re not disappointed with today at all,” prosecutor Powers said. “We’re confident that the judge made the correct ruling throughout the trial and we know that sometime she’ll be sentenced.”

Harvey’s boyfriend Lotoris Grovner was convicted in January of voluntary manslaughter for beating Marble to death with a sauce pan and vodka bottle. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Harvey’s jury determined that she conspired with Grovner and planned the attack.

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