Why a Cobb County judge dropped charges against a man accused of murder

Judge Gregory Poole, shown in a 2020 AJC file photo, recently dropped charges against a man accused of murder.

Credit: Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Credit: Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Judge Gregory Poole, shown in a 2020 AJC file photo, recently dropped charges against a man accused of murder.

He was accused of striking a woman with his car and killing her at a Cobb County gas station. Corbin Scott Engler was indicted for murder and also accused of trying to hit two other men.

But video from the store showed Engler wasn’t the aggressor. Last week, his case was dismissed after Cobb Judge Gregory Poole dropped the charges against him in the January 2021 case, which started when the three at the gas station made assumptions that weren’t true.

“There is no evidence before the court that defendant used force in an unlawful or unauthorized manner,” Poole wrote in his order granting Engler immunity from prosecution. “The court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant had a reasonable belief that there was an imminent threat of violence against himself and his family and that his car was his only means of escaping that violence.”

Engler hadn’t intended to hurt anyone, but was instead trying to protect himself and his family, the judge decided.

On Jan. 2, 2021, Engler, his wife and their two young children, and his mother-in-law had gone to an Acworth restaurant and then to a nearby Valero gas station. The group was in two different vehicles, according to defense attorney Megan Grout.

The couple’s 3-year-old boy was crying and had gotten out of his car seat as his mother walked into the store, Grout said. Engler attempted to buckle the child back into his car seat when he was approached by two men and a woman.

“The three wrongly assumed Engler was somehow hurting the child,” Grout said. “They aggressively approached Engler’s car and began threatening Engler and his wife.”

As Engler backed up his car, Katie Lambert walked in front of it as if attempting to stop the family from leaving. That’s when one of the men punched Engler’s windshield with a knife, causing the windshield to crack. Engler then drove, hitting Lambert.

Acworth police were called to the scene, finding Lambert critically injured in the parking lot. Engler was later arrested on charges including aggravated assault, hit and run, cruelty to children, reckless driving and aggravated battery. No injuries were found on the young boy.

When Lambert died from those injuries in February of this year, charges were upgraded to include murder. Engler, 28, was arrested again.

In March, a hearing in Poole’s courtroom included testimony from witnesses and video footage from the gas station. In April, Poole issued his ruling finding that Engler was immune from prosecution and ordered the indictments be dismissed. The case was formally dismissed on May 31.

“What people need to understand is Corbin never got out of the car,” Grout told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He never confronted anyone. He did what we would have wanted him to do: He protected his family and tried to get away. And that’s what the judge found in the end.”