ADD, meds basis of Brunswick man's appeal of life term
Brunswick man's lawyer tells high court first attorney botched case.
- By Walter C. Jones
- Story updated at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2009
ATLANTA – A Brunswick man serving a life sentence for murder should get a new trial because his attorney didn't tell the jury about the affects of his medication and misdiagnosis for ADD, an attorney told the Georgia Supreme Court during oral arguments Monday.
But a prosecutor countered, saying Jason Futch was in control of his actions the evening in 2003 when he fired a shotgun that killed Michael Weaver, 20, of Macon in an Atlanta apartment.
The two had never met when Weaver and friends visited Futch's apartment after a college concert. Friendly wrestling between Weaver and Futch dissolved into a dispute, and friends separated the two, Futch to his bedroom and Weaver to a bathroom.
In the bedroom, Futch grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun he had received from his father, Carl, who was a veteran Glynn County sheriff's deputy. Two acquaintances tried to get him to put it down, but he fired through the wall, a hallway and through two doors, striking Weaver.
Monday, attorney John Martin argued Futch's trial attorney, Richard Hagler of Columbus, should have investigated the interaction of alcohol on the medication for depression and attention-deficit disorder.
"We're not arguing there wasn't sufficient evidence. Clearly there was sufficient evidence," Martin told the seven justices. "The question was did he get a fair trial."
Had the jury known the drugs and alcohol results in greater aggression for people who don't have ADD, they would have probably convicted Futch just of involuntary manslaughter, Martin said. The fact that the jury acquitted him of several charges and convicted him of felony murder proves the verdict was a compromise, and in such a confusing situation, information about the drugs could have tipped the balance in favor of the defense, Martin argued.
"[Hagler] didn't even pick up the phone with the psychiatrist," Martin said.
Senior Assistant Fulton County Marc Mallon disagreed, saying Hagler decided to use a different legal strategy and didn't include the medications intentionally. Appeals courts have been reluctant to second guess attorneys' legal strategy in deciding questions of whether a defendant had proper representation.
"He did investigate. According to Martin, he didn't do it enough. That's just hindsight," Mallon said.
The court typically will consider the question for the next several months before ruling. There was no indication Monday which way a ruling might go.
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