The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News will provide a livestream of today’s action inside the courtroom.
Watch it here:
The original 1983 investigation into what may have been a racially motivated murder in Spalding County was remarkably inadequate, attorneys for the prosecution and defense agreed on Wednesday.
For the state, the shortcomings of the original probe are a challenge to overcome. And the defense made it clear they plan to exploit them.
Opening arguments began at 9 a.m. in the first day of the murder trial of Franklin Gebhardt, one of two men charged in the murder of Timothy Coggins 35 years ago.
Prosecutor Marie Broder told jurors the initial investigation into Coggins’ murder -- stabbed repeatedly and then chained and dragged behind a pickup truck -- was “shameful.”
“They didn’t care about Timothy Coggins,” Broder said.
Defense co-counsel Scott Johnston noted the lack of interest from Spalding deputies and GBI agents assigned to the case, saying they sought to close the case after just two months.
“They had given up on it,” Johnston said. “Just another dead black man in 1983.”
Gebhardt, 60, is charged with felony murder and other counts in the crime prosecutors say was driven by racial animus. Gebhardt allegedly bragged about his participation in the murder, though he never mentioned Coggins by name, according to Broder.
“He tells people he killed a N-word,” she said.
Broder asked jurors to seize the opportunity to “atone for the sins of the past.”
Johnston said the state shouldn’t get a pass just because the case is old. He listed all of the evidence that had gone missing since 1983: Tire impressions. A bloody sweater. Hair samples taken from that sweater. A wooden club. An empty Jack Daniels bottle.
“Where did it go?” Johnston asked.
Although on Monday fewer than half of the 325 citizens called to jury duty showed up for the selection, it took only two days to seat the jury. It is made of up eight women and four men; 10 are white and two are African-American.
The case captured international headlines last October when Gebhardt and brother-in-law Bill Moore Sr. were arrested and charged with Coggins’ murder. Moore’s trial is scheduled to take place in October.
Coggins’ mutilated body was found near Gebhardt’s home in the city of Sunny Side, which had about 330 residents then and only 134 now.
Get familiar with the case:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.