The Georgia Supreme Court narrowly rejected a bid to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against a defendant who has sat in jail for more than three years awaiting trial because there has been no money for his defense, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 4-3 ruling said the state did not violate Jamie Weis’ right to a speedy trial and placed some of the blame on the defendant and his attorneys. He is charged with killing a woman, 73, during a burglary.
The case had been closely watched because the court might have determined that Georgia could not afford the death penalty in times of budgetary crisis. The appeal asked the court to dismiss the charges or bar the state from seeking death because Weis had been without lawyers for more than two years. Justice Harold Melton, for the majority, said a lack of state funds to pay for Weis’ defense contributed to some of the delay, but it wasn’t the sole factor. Dissenter Hugh Thompson said, “If the state wants to seek the death penalty against an indigent defendant, it must provide adequate funds for a full and vigorous defense.”