The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a ruling by a lower court on Monday, reinstating an armed robbery conviction that defense attorneys argued should have been overturned because of an alleged improper comment by Superior Court Judge Doug Pullen.
The 12-year sentence of Marquez Gardner had been overturned by the Georgia Court of Appeals in March 2009. According to an appeals court judge, Pullen’s use of the word “we” when asking whether venue had been proven could make jurors think he was on the prosecution’s side.
In Monday’s 5-2 decision, the high court said the lower court erred.
“Although we strongly discourage the giving of direction or the use of language that could create the appearance of alignment between the trial court and either the prosecution or defense, the trial court did not ‘express or intimate [its] opinion as to what has or has not been proved,’” states the opinion.
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In addition, the opinion says that venue wasn’t disputed by the trial attorneys.
Gardner, then 16, was accused of robbing customers at the Stylistic Beauty Salon on Brown Avenue in October 2006. He was convicted of armed robbery in July 2007.