Hearing slated in Brookins death penalty case

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Mar. 22—The case of death row inmate Brian Duane Brookins was back again in Baldwin County Superior Court on Friday.

One motion heard concerns a request for a new trial.

Brookins was found guilty of shooting to death his wife, Suzzanne McDade Brookins, and his 15-year-old stepdaughter, Samantha Giles, on Oct. 15, 2006.

Neither Brookins nor his attorney, Josh Moore, attended Friday's hearing before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda H. Trammel in-person. Moore joined in via Zoom teleconferencing, while Brookins listened by way of phone from prison.

"Truly, I don't want this just for schedule purposes," Trammell told Brookins' defense attorney, Josh Moore. "I sat this down because it has just been sitting here."

Trammell pointed out that she recently became involved in the case and that it had been sent to the Supreme Court, but it was sent back to the lower court because of motions filed by Moore on behalf of his client.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III, along with District Attorney Chief Investigator Mark Robinson attended the hearing in-person.

"We can address that judge," Moore said in reference to Trammell's question. "But there is another pending motion in this case as well. And we do want to be heard on that."

Moore said it pertained to a supplemental amended motion for a new trial or motion to reconsider the denial for a new trial.

The defense attorney said the motion for a new trial was filed back in November 2013, along with a request for a hearing.

"I'm here ready to [hear] all of them," Trammell told Moore.

Barksdale informed the court that the state was prepared to move forward with any hearings related to the Brookins case.

"I'm making this call," Trammell said. "I took this one on because we've got to get it resolved."

Moore said it was his understanding that Friday's meeting was for status conference purposes.

"We're not prepared to present evidence on that, but we can be," Moore said. "Again, I understand the court's concern that we don't want to inject further delay in this case. We demanded a hearing back in '13 on this and we didn't get one."

The judge quickly pointed out that she wasn't on the bench as a judge at that time.

"I'm just letting the court know that there are substantive matters to address in this case, and we're not in a position to present evidence this morning — probably a significant amount of evidence ... I'm not comfortable waiving Mr. Brookins' appearance and having him try to listen to us on the telephone for a substantive hearing in a death penalty case," Moore said.

Moore said he and his team had recently received notice that the docket was electronically available, and some of his team members had been online reviewing it.

"We've talked with Ms. (Kimberly) Brown with the clerk's office who has been very helpful," Moore said. "It appears to our team that the record that's existent now is the same record that was transmitted by the court in 2012."

Moore suggested a 30-day time frame in which he and his team could file a written report with the court and collaborate with the clerk's office.

"We may be able to get everything resolved without intervention from the court," Moore said. "This is what we tried to do back in 2012."

That matter could be resolved without the need of a hearing, he said.

Moore said new evidence has developed since the motion for a new trial was first rejected by the state's High Court.

He said it was his position that those matters need to be heard by the court.

Trammell later set April 16 for the hearing. It will start at 10 a.m.

The judge also informed a representative with the Georgia Department of Corrections that Brookins would need to appear at the upcoming hearing via live video and audio.

A 12-person jury chosen from Morgan County heard testimony during the five-day trial in Baldwin County Superior Court in Milledgeville and later returned guilty verdicts against Brookins on charges of two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of cruelty to children in the third degree, and one count each on aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Jurors deliberated just 90 minutes before finding Brookins guilty on each of those charges.

The late Fred Bright, who was serving as district attorney of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit at the time of the trial, had sought the death penalty. Bright was assisted in the prosecution of the case by Stephen A. Bradley, who later became district attorney and who is now one of the five Superior Court judges in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.

Just a few hours after jurors convicted Brookins, they reconvened for the penalty phase of the trial. They later unanimously agreed that Brookins should die for the crimes that he committed.

The trial judge, Hugh V. Winfield IV, now retired, sentenced Brookins to die by lethal injection.

Since the convictions on the multiple charges, Brookins has been housed on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison near Jackson.

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