The Georgia Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a Columbus armed robbery conviction that was overturned by the Court of Appeals in March.
The appellate court did not dispute the facts in the July 18, 2007, conviction of Marquez Gardner in the armed robbery of a Brown Avenue beauty salon, but it sent the case back to Muscogee County for another trail, stating that Superior Court Judge Doug Pullen overstepped his authority.
The appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court in October, but no date has been set, said spokesperson Jane Hansen.Pullen declined comment Tuesday afternoon.
“I will let them make any comment,” he said referring to the high court.
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Pullen was reversed twice by the Court of Appeals in recent months.
The appeals court also sent the conviction of George Anderson for armed robbery, kidnapping, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and financial transaction card fraud back to Muscogee County for another trial.
It was a similar conclusion reached by the appeals court in March when it reversed the Gardner conviction.
At issue was Pullen, a former prosecutor who has been on the bench since 1995, using the word “we” while addressing the prosecution during the trial.
During the testimony of a shoe store saleswoman Anderson was accused of robbing, Pullen asked, “Did we establish venue on this one?”
According to the transcript, he made similar comments in the Gardner case.
The court cited the following exchange:
State: “That’s all we have judge.”
Court: “Prove venue. Did you prove venue?”
State: “I have not as of yet.”
Court: “Why don’t we go ahead and do that before we forget.”
“By aligning himself with the prosecution through the reference to ‘we,’ the judge could have been perceived by the jury as an advocate for the state,” Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes wrote in the March 20 reversal.
The appeals court ruled the judge violated state law, which reads: “It is error for any judge in any criminal case, during its progress or in his charge to the jury, to express or intimate his opinion as to what has or has not been proved or as to the guilt of the accused.”