It has been more than three years since unarmed Afghanistan War veteran Anthony Hill was gunned down at a Chamblee apartment complex by a DeKalb County police officer.
And until this week, there was no guarantee Robert Olsen would ever be tried, even though he was charged with murder in the March 2015 shooting of the 27-year-old Hill.
But now that DeKalb Superior Court Judge J.P. Boulee has rejected the defense’s argument that Olsen should be granted immunity, all that remains is selecting a trial date. And that won’t be as easy as it sounds.
Olsen’s attorneys, Don Samuel and Amanda Clark Palmer, have two cases that will take up much of the autumn. The first, said Samuel, begins after Labor Day and is expected to last up to six weeks. They have another case going to trial on Halloween that may finish by Thanksgiving. Holidays typically preclude December trial dates, particularly a highly charged case such as Olsen’s.
Samuel said a start date in January or February is most likely, although that could change if the case receives a new judge, a decent possibility since Boulee is on a short list to fill two upcoming vacancies on the Georgia Supreme Court.
In his immunity ruling, Boulee said he found little to suggest Olsen acted in self-defense when he shot Hill, who was naked at the time and obviously unarmed. Samuel has argued that Olsen, who was fired from the police department after the killing, had “the right of an individual to act in self-defense, whether he’s in uniform or not.”
If the immunity argument had succeeded, the murder charges would have been dropped.
On Tuesday, after nearly three months of consideration, Boulee cited “conflicts in testimony” and the defendant’s credibility as major factors in his ruling.
Olsen’s defense team is likely to seek permission from Boulee to appeal, a request the judge is all but certain to deny since he wrote the decision.
Boulee’s ruling pointed out several challenges faced by Olsen’s defense team.
The former officer failed to show that he reasonably believed deadly force was necessary in order to avoid death or serious bodily harm to himself or anyone else, the judge wrote.
“No evidence exists that defendant ever believed that Hill was about to kill him, and no witness testified that they thought Hill was capable of killing (Olsen),” he said.
» MORE: Who was Anthony Hill?
» ALSO: Who is Robert Olsen?
Olsen’s inconsistent account of what happened that night could not be ignored, according to the judge.
He pointed to testimony by DeKalb Officer Lyn Anderson, who arrived on the scene moments after the shooting. Anderson testified that Olsen told her Hill had attacked him, though Olsen later acknowledged that never happened.
The judge also noted Olsen’s distinct size advantage over Hill — about 5 inches and 40 pounds.
“Importantly, Hill did not have any weapons and did not make any verbal threats towards defendant,” the judge concluded.
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