UPDATE: Graham murder-for-hire retrial likely delayed again

spedersen@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 17, 2013 

An attorney for Lisa L. Graham, the Ladonia, Ala., woman facing two counts of capital murder in the death of her daughter, filed papers in Russell County Circuit Court on Tuesday seeking a delay in her upcoming retrial scheduled for Monday.

In a motion, Auburn attorney Margaret Y. Brown said she in the process of filing a writ of mandamus to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to question double jeopardy and whether Graham should be retried. A trial started Sept. 17, 2012, but a mistrial abruptly was declared Sept. 25 after Judge George Greene fell ill.

Brown’s motion comes less than two weeks after a July 3 hearing in Russell County Circuit Court, where Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III ruled the mistrial was necessary due to Greene’s health. A motion to dismiss based on double jeopardy was denied in a July 13 order.

Walker wrote that Greene was dealing with a substantial medical ailment that was affecting his ability to preside over the trial and had the potential to cause more errors if the trial had continued. The defense was clearly protecting the rights of Graham by asking that reasons surrounding the mistrial be investigated.

“However, it appears that the mistrial was not declared to protect the interests of any one individual; it was declared out of a need to protect the rights or all parties, including the immediate health concerns of Judge Greene, and to promote the substantial ends of public justice,” Walker wrote in his order.

Buster Landreau, chief deputy district attorney for Russell County, said he thinks the latest motion was filed so that jurors would not be summoned unnecessarily.

“My guess would be that the case is going to be continued because she is filing a writ of mandamus in the higher court,” Landreau said. “Such a writ normally carries an automatic stay with it. I would anticipate that she is going to file that sometime this week.”

Brown announced her intentions during the hearing that she would seek an order from the higher court with the writ. Walker has said the court would be instructed not to send out questionnaires for jurors if a writ is filed.

Graham’s defense team of Brown and Robert G. Poole thought the trial would be a delayed. “It was the understanding of the defense that the case would be continued pending review of the court’s order by petition for writ of mandamus to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals,” the motion states. “The defendant is in the process of preparing the petition for filing, and expects to file on or before Monday, July 22, 2013.”

Graham, 45, has been free on bond since January after spending more than five years in prison. She was accused in July 2007 in the murder-for-hire death of her daughter, Shea Graham, whose body was found with multiple gunshots off a rural road off Alabama Highway 165.

Kenneth Walton, an employee in the family business, pleaded guilty in June 2012 to capital murder in shooting Shea Graham. Brown noted in her motion that the case was previously set for trial twice, but was delayed by the state. Graham has never filed for a delay, the defense attorney wrote.

Court papers show that the jury empaneled Sept. 21, 2012, was not sworn in on one capital murder count. In a motion for dismissal, the defense acknowledges that the trial only started on one capital murder counts.

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