Convicted 'stocking strangler' seeking new trial in murders, rapes of Georgia women

Credit: Lois Norder

Credit: Lois Norder

A sexually driven serial killer strangled elderly women in the Columbus, Ga., area in the 1970s. Now, the case is drawing new international attention.

"Bombshell" evidence raises new questions about the guilt of the man convicted in the slayings in 1986, according to the headline in Britain's second biggest daily newspaper, The Daily Mail. The article concerns Carlton Gary's "last ditch" efforts to avoid  execution. A Columbus judge heard testimony Thursday and Friday on Gary's motion for a new trial.

But the article, by a British writer who has advocated for Gary and volunteered on his case as an investigator, leaves out some information that journalists covering the hearing for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer noted. The Georgia newspaper's coverage paints a more complex picture of evidence in the case.

A key piece of evidence in question is a police sketch of the suspect, discovered a year ago in a briefcase that belonged to a former investigator in the case.

Credit: Lois Norder

Credit: Lois Norder

The Daily Mail article notes that the sketch doesn't look anything like Gary, but it was not presented at trial. However, at trial, the victim who helped police develop the sketch testified that Gary was the man who raped, beat and strangled her, notes David Rose, who has been following the case for almost 20 years.

The Daily Mail article doesn't note that the sketch was created while the woman was under hypnosis. Under Georgia law, evidence developed through hypnosis is not typically admitted in court, though the judge allowed it in this case. Read why by clicking here:

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, which covered last week's hearing, also noted that the sketch was made some six weeks after the attack, and that the person who made the sketch and the victim have since died and cannot verify it.

And the sketch wasn't unknown to Gary's attorney for his 1986 trial. During the hearing, that attorney testified that he had heard about the sketch but was not able to get a copy of it.

Last week's hearing in Columbus also discussed the DNA evidence in the case that resulted from tests in 2010. Evidence there is mixed, the Columbus newspaper notes.

DNA from one victim matched Gary. But DNA from another victim did not. Tests on another victim were tainted at the state crime lab and invalid, the Columbus newspaper wrote.

In the Daily Mail article, Rose describes that as an act of sabotage by the state crime lab. He also ties Gary's conviction to racist attitudes in Columbus, noting that Gary is black while the victims were white.

Some of the other evidence noted at last week's hearing also was mixed. A shoe print found outside the home of one victim was size 9 1/2, while Gary is a 13 1/2.  But Gary's thumbprint was found at the home of an 89-year-old woman who was raped and strangled, the Columbus paper reported.

The hearing is to determine whether Gary should be granted a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The Columbus newspaper notes that evidence can't be deemed "newly discovered" just because the defense team failed to exercise due diligence in discovering it earlier.

The judge will now decide if Gary should be granted a new trial or a new sentencing trial to determine if he should be executed. Read about other inmates on Georgia's death row here:

Police said the strangler, who used a distinctive knot in stockings he used to strangle victims, killed seven women and beat and raped two others.