Merchant said the judge suggested a possible March date for the trial.
Grinstead was last seen alive at a party on Oct. 22, 2005. When she failed to show up in her classroom two days later, a massive search was launched to find her, and it became a national news story. The reward for information grew, but no trace of Grinstead was found.
More than 11 years later, GBI investigators turned their attention to Duke. After questioning him for several hours, Duke was arrested. He confessed, according to the GBI investigators. But later, he changed his story and said he didn’t kill Grinstead, but was involved in covering up her death.
In March, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Duke is entitled to state funds for his defense, overruling a decision by an Irwin County trial judge who found that he could not receive such funds because he is represented by pro bono counsel — private attorneys representing him at no cost. In preparing Duke’s defense, they had been denied funds to pay expert witnesses and an investigator.
Duke was represented by a public defender before he retained Merchant, her husband John Merchant and Atlanta lawyer John Gibbs, all of whom agreed to work for free.
Bo Dukes, who isn’t related to Duke, was also charged in the case.
In March 2019, Dukes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for concealing Grinstead’s death. Dukes initially claimed he didn’t know anything about the disappearance and death of Grinstead. Months later, Dukes confessed. He didn’t kill Grinstead but helped dispose of the body, according to evidence at his trial.
— Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.