Judge sets rules for Michael Curry murder trial

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comApril 14, 2011 

Muscogee Superior Court Judge John Allen ruled Wednesday that a warrant authorizing police to search Michael Curry’s Dalton, Ga., home in 2008 was valid, but not everything seized in the search will be admitted into evidence in the accused bush-ax killer’s murder trial next week.

The warrant was based on information Curry’s then-estranged wife Susan provided to Columbus cold-case investigator Randy Long, who was looking for a letter Curry’s mother, Joyce, wrote him saying that when she died, only one other person would know what happened to Curry’s wife and children.

On Aug. 29, 1985, Curry’s pregnant wife Ann, 4-year-old daughter Erika and 20-month-old son Ryan were hacked to death with a bush ax in the family’s 5433 Rockhurst Drive home, off Macon Road in east Columbus. Charged with three counts of murder in their slayings, Curry goes on trial Monday.

After the killings, Curry moved from Columbus to other cities before finally settling in Dalton, where he went to work for the school district. Cold-case investigators took an interest in his then-wife Susan upon learning she had been arrested for drunkenly assaulting Curry in May 2008. Checking Curry’s 911 call, they heard her in the background say, “Why don’t you tell them how your kids got killed?”

Curry’s defense team challenged the search, saying the warrant did not specify what authorities were looking for and had no factual basis. The information Susan Curry gave Long was stale, because she had not seen Joyce Curry’s letter in months, and later told detectives it had been destroyed, said defense attorney Robin King.

Those conducting the search found other letters and documents they seized, including papers related to three insurance policies that paid Curry following the homicides of his wife and kids. The defense and prosecution were to argue Wednesday over what’s admissible in court and what’s not.

Allen had wanted those arguments settled Wednesday, and lectured attorneys when they could not specify what they wanted.

“I’m moving this case,” the judge declared, of the documents later adding, “We are not going to fight this battle in trial.” Saying he would be out of town for two days, he ordered the lawyers to have a list of evidence ready for him Saturday morning.

Another question was whether an ex-girlfriend of Curry’s could testify that he held a staple gun to her head and so badly frightened her she jumped through a window to escape. Allen said she could testify and be cross-examined on that particular incident, but not on any general behavior Curry exhibited if she could not document it as to time and place.

Allen instructed the prosecution to cover that incident in testimony, and not cite it in opening arguments. Anything attorneys say to the jury without first establishing facts could result in a mistrial, Allen warned, again declaring, “This case is going to move.”

The trial is going to be moved, too -- from Allen’s courtroom on the Columbus Government Center’s seventh floor to the ninth-floor courtroom Judge Bobby Peters usually uses.

The larger ninth-floor courtroom has seating for 145 spectators, adjacent chambers where witnesses can be sequestered, and space in the rear for photographers.

Jury selection will begin Monday at 9 a.m., said Allen, who plans to question jurors first himself, to ask whether they’ve been exposed to so much pre-trial publicity that they can’t fairly judge Curry’s guilt or innocence.

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