Following the Superior Court arraignment Friday of Michael Curry, Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater said she does not plan to seek the death penalty against the man accused of the bush-ax deaths of his pregnant wife and two children in 1985.
“I have filed no intention to seek the death penalty,” Slater said outside the courtroom. “I do not plan to seek the death penalty,” Curry’s defense attorney, public defender Bob Wadkins, said the district attorney’s decision sends a message that the state’s case is weak.
“Because they don’t have a case, they can’t seek the death penalty,” Wadkins said. “The first thing you do is make sure you have a lock on guilt. If they really thought they had a case against Michael Curry, they would almost have to seek the death penalty. Because if you don’t seek the death penalty in these kinds of brutal murders, you could never seek the death penalty again.”
Wadkins also called Curry’s indictment “politically motivated.”
“Without attributing any bad motives, I believe that (Slater) needed a boost in her community ranking,” Wadkins said. “It came at a mighty strange time.”
Slater declined to go into the details about the evidence in the 24-year-old case against Curry, saying that she had support of the victims’ family and law enforcement in her decision.
Later in the day, the district attorney issued a statement in response to Wadkins’ comments, which were first reported on Ledger-Enquirer.com.
“I am prohibited from making extrajudicial comments that might prejudice the proceeding,” Slater said in the statement. “There will, of course, be things brought out during the trial and things I can discuss after the trial that I am not permitted to reveal now. I do not feel it would be appropriate to respond publicly. Unlike Mr. Wadkins, I will not try this case in the media. I will try my case in court.”
Curry’s arraignment was his first court appearance since his May arrest.
Standing before Judge John Allen, Curry pleaded not guilty to all 11 charges against him. Those include charges of murder, aggravated assault and feticide in the brutal bush-ax slayings of his pregnant wife, Ann, 4-year-old daughter Erika and 1-year-old son Ryan.
As Allen read each charge, a clean-shaven Curry quietly said, “Not guilty, sir.”
Through interviewed by Columbus Police at the time of the deaths, Curry was not arrested until May of this year after a grand jury indictment. He has been in the Columbus jail without bond since his arrest.
Ann Curry’s parents, James and Bernice Johnson, both wearing pink lapel ribbons, sat on the front row of the courtroom adjacent to the Muscogee County Jail. They stood behind Slater in a makeshift news conference after the hearing.
During the hearing, Wadkins asked the judge to dismiss five of the charges.
“Normally, I do not comment on an indictment and pending cases, however, I will say that this is probably the most ineptly prepared indictment that I have ever seen,” Wadkins said. “It appears to have been prepared by someone who is not a lawyer.”
Slater declined to comment on the motion to dismiss some of the charges. Allen set a hearing for Sept. 15. He set a tentative trial date for early October.
“This case is ready for trial,” Slater said after the hearing.
The defense claims the statute of limitations on the three aggravated assault charges have expired. Curry was charged with aggravated assault against his wife and two children. The statute of limitations on aggravated assault on an adult is four years and it is seven years on a person under 18.
Ann Curry was eight months pregnant at the time of the murder. Michael Curry was charged with two counts of feticide, killing a fetus. The statute of limitations, which is seven years, has also expired on the two feticide charges, according to the defense motion.
In addition, one count of the feticide was not in the Georgia code in 1985. “The defendant cannot be expected to defend or answer to a crime that was not codified in 1985.”
The defense did not challenge the six murder counts — which include three counts of malice murder and three counts of felony murder, which means committing the act while taking part in another felony.
The defense has asked Allen to move the trial away from Muscogee County because of all of the pretrial publicity, He will hear that during the Sept. 15 hearing.
“To try the defendant in Muscogee County where the community feeling is strongly set against him will violate his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the motion states.
In 1985, Curry reported finding the bodies when he returned home from work about 5:30 p.m. that day. He told police on the day of the slayings that he had shopped for a fan for the Bradley Center, where he was a maintenance supervisor, and bought one at Columbus’ Macon Road Kmart at 1:10 p.m.
Police questioned Curry for hours on the night of the slayings, then released him without charge.
Curry was arrested in May in Dalton, Ga., where he worked as an electronics technician for the city school system’s maintenance office.The defense also asked for a bond, which Allen will hear at the hearing in a couple of weeks.
In that request for bond, Wadkins put Curry’s mother, former mother-in-law, former brother-in-law and coworker from the school district in Dalton where he worked as an electrician on the stand as character witnesses.
Helen Stabenow’s daughter, Sherry, was married to Curry for seven years before she died of cancer in 2004. She testified she went to church with Curry and he attended regularly.