The man held responsible for seven horrific rape/murders of elderly Columbus women in 1977-78 has lived more of his life behind bars since his conviction (and ostensible death sentence) for three of those murders than he had lived outside of prison before them. At 67, he is now older than three of the victims were when they died.
The seemingly endless Carlton Gary case, like the principal players involved in it — prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges — is now literally in its second generation.
This case had already dragged on too long eight years ago when Gary, hours away from execution by lethal injection, was granted a last-minute reprieve by the Georgia Supreme Court for DNA testing, an unknown technology at the time of the killings.
The short version of that process, now well known to most who have been around long enough to follow the case: The most promising DNA sample from one of the crimes for which Gary had been convicted was accidentally tainted at the GBI crime lab; another DNA sample matching Gary’s had been preserved from one of the crimes for which he was not tried, but is believed to have committed.
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In August, Muscogee Superior Court Judge Frank J. Jordan denied Gary’s attorneys’ motion for a new trial — a ruling which is now back in the hands of the state’s highest court, the same one that issued the stay of execution in 2009. If the state Supreme Court rejects or refuses to hear this appeal, it could be all over but the proverbial shouting … except that we’ve heard that so many times before.
As reported by Tim Chitwood, Gary’s lawyers can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already refused to hear the case. And because he is convicted in a capital case, Gary is legally entitled to a last hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, which gave him the thumbs-down at his last hearing before the 2009 execution date.
Murder victims, by definition, don’t live to see justice done. Their surviving loved ones and friends are supposed to. When a case drags out this long, many of them don’t. They too are crime victims, and there shouldn’t be any more of them.
Higher ed boom
There’s no downside to this: For the second year in a row, total enrollment in University System of Georgia institutions has set a new record.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported this week that fall semester enrollment in the system’s 28 colleges and universities, including of course Columbus State University, is 325,203, an increase of 1.1 percent over the same time last year.
Even better: Not only has the number of students starting college increased, but the number of students finishing has increased even more. System Chancellor Steve Wrigley said the number of students earning degrees has increased a full 18 percent since 2011.
This is a trend Georgia needs to do everything possible to sustain.