GA High Court Orders Plan to Prevent Case Delays

The Georgia Supreme Court, in a ruling on Monday on a murder case that took place in 1997, cites “extensive and largely unexplained delays” in the appeal. The court unanimously directs lower court judges to come up with a plan to reduce delays in future cases.

The Georgia Supreme Court is instructing judges, lawyers and others to come up with a rule to prevent unnecessary delays in the criminal appeals process after seeing many cases that languished for 10 years or longer, the Associated Press reports. The directive  came Monday in an appeal that took nearly two decades to reach the high court. Margie Owens was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to serve life in prison for killing her husband. It took eight years for her motion for a new trial to be heard and denied. Then it took 11 more years for her appeal to get to the Supreme Court. The unanimous opinion  directs the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia to work with groups representing prosecutors, defense attorneys, court clerks and others to come up with a proposal by Sept. 17 to address the problem of extensive and unnecessary appeal delays.

Owens’ sister and adult daughter had her involuntarily committed to a hospital in April 1997 because they were concerned about her excessive drinking, violent behavior and threats to kill her husband says. In 1997, family members came over for a cookout. Owens had been drinking heavily and argued with and threatened to kill her husband. Later that night, Owens called 911 and said she may have shot her husband, Randall. She testified at trial that her husband had abused her and threatened to blow her brains out the day of the shooting and that he had long been violent with her. In addition to the “extensive and largely unexplained delays” in this case, Justice David Nahmias listed in footnotes of the opinion dozens of other cases with unjustified delays. He said  the Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals have repeatedly issued admonishments about such delays.