Columbus’ infamous Stocking Strangler case is being passed to yet another judge in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.
With the resignation Tuesday of Muscogee Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston, the final steps in deciding convicted strangler Carlton Gary’s fate now will be heard by Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan, the next, most senior judge who has no conflict of interest because of previous involvement in Gary’s prosecution or defense.
A hearing on whether to DNA-test evidence in the 1970s rapes and stranglings of elderly women was to be held in Johnston’s courtroom Monday. District Attorney Julia Slater said this morning that the hearing, if necessary, will be in Jordan’s court.
Slater and Gary’s attorney, Jack Martin, have discussed a consent agreement regarding which evidence from the stranglings to test. Were they to agree to proceed with testing specific items, Monday’s hearing won’t be needed, Slater said.
Chief Judge John Allen, who can’t hear the stranglings case because he once was involved in Gary’s defense, said he will talk to the circuit’s other judges about distributing the rest of Johnston’s caseload.
Of the Gary case, Allen said: "I'm sure the lawyers would prefer a judge who's going to be on the bench beyond March 15." That's the date Johnston's resignation takes effect.
Johnston, 62, abruptly resigned Tuesday after meeting with an investigator for the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission. The judge said his health had worsened to the point he no longer could fulfill his obligations.