[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLORIDA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jan 4 00:22:42 CST 2009
High-profile murder cases on trial in 2009----Heading the list: The
Edenfield family will be tried in the death of a boy at a mobile home park
The 1st of 3 family members charged with the sexual abuse slaying of
6-year-old Christopher Michael Barrios Jr. could stand trial this year,
David Edenfield, 59, of Brunswick faces the death penalty if convicted of
malice murder in the killing almost 2 years ago.
District Attorney Stephen Kelley wants to bring Edenfield to trial in late
summer or fall. Edenfield's son, George, a convicted child molester, also
faces the death penalty in the slaying. George Edenfield, 33, could face a
special civil trial by the end of the year to determine if he is mentally
competent to be tried on the criminal charges, Kelley said.
No date has been set for David or George Edenfield. Nor has a trial date
been set for Peggy Edenfield, 57, who faces a life sentence in the
killing. She is married to David Edenfield and is George Edenfield's
The Edenfields top the list of high-profile Southeast Georgia homicide
cases expected to be tried this year in the adjacent Brunswick and
Waycross judicial circuits. Between them, the judicial circuits encompass
The 5-county Brunswick circuit had 25 homicide cases awaiting trial as of
Friday. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in at least seven of
those cases, Kelley said.
None is bigger than those for the accused killers of Christopher Barrios
Jr., a case that drew national attention.
The boy was killed March 8, 2007. His body was discovered a week later
inside a black plastic trash bag hidden in woods about 2 miles from the
Canal Mobile Home Park where he lived.
The 3 Edenfields were the Barrios family's neighbors. They remain jailed
without bail on malice murder, kidnapping and child molestation charges.
Peggy Edenfield has agreed to testify against her husband and son in
exchange for prosecutors not asking that she get the death penalty.
Kelley expects pretrial hearings in David Edenfield's case to resume
within a couple months. It's been slow going, he said, because of the
legal procedures mandated by Georgia's death penalty law.
"It's all time-consuming, but it's part of Georgia's death penalty
process," he said.
Nonetheless, Kelley wants to try one homicide case a month in the circuit.
But that might not be possible because state budget cuts have forced
prosecutors to furlough employees one day each month. Further bogging down
the trial docket, the budget cuts also eliminated senior judges. The
retired judges continue to try cases and help reduce overloaded dockets.
2 other circuit death penalty cases may be tried by the end of the year,
In Wayne County, Bobby Rex Stribling, a 46-year-old career felon, is
charged with beating to death Judge Glenn Thomas Jr., 74, in 2007. Thomas,
a former district attorney, was attacked June 25, 2007 during a robbery at
his Jesup law office and died July 9, 2007 while hospitalized for his
In Glynn County, David Lane Campbell, 27, is charged with the beating
death of Marshall Allen, a well-known 58-year-old musician, at his Three
Oaks Lane home in 2007.
In addition, Kelley is considering seeking the death penalty in several
other cases, including 3 homicides last year in Camden County.
Those defendants are: Tye Christopher Watkins, 22, charged with gunning
down his parents, T.J. and Cindy Watkins, at their St. Marys home; Amos
Southall, 27, charged with killing Michelle Hainley, 21, of Yulee at a
Kingsland motel; and Larry Nathaniel Harris Sr., 43, charged with the
execution-style slayings of Commie Lee Spead, 48, and Jerry Lewis
Williams, 52, both of Kingsland.
"The problem is, the case may initially fit death penalty criteria but the
evidence has to support it. Most jurors on a death penalty case basically
want evidence beyond all doubt, not just beyond a reasonable doubt, which
is what the law requires," Kelley said.
Betty Jo Jacobs is among the defendants in 6 homicide cases who could
stand trial this year in the Waycross Judicial Circuit, which includes
Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Coffee, Pierce and Ware counties.
None is a death penalty case.
Jacobs, 67, is charged with killing her former husband, L. Davis Jacobs,
68 of Waycross on Aug. 24, 2007. The well-known ophthalmologist was gunned
down in his medical office near Satilla Regional Medical Center in
Waycross as patients waited for their appointments with him.
"We're looking at possibly trying it in February, but that's not been
finalized," District Attorney Rick Currie told the Times-Union.
If convicted, Jacobs faces a life sentence. Her attorneys have asserted
that Jacobs suffered from battered person syndrome when she killed her
In Pierce County, Archie Edward Bennett Jr., 67, is charged with murder
and arson in last year's shooting death of his former wife, Shirley Dial
Bennett, whose home was set on fire. He could stand trial in May or
December when the court holds criminal trial weeks, Currie said.
The other 4 homicide cases are divided among Bacon, Brantley, Charlton and
Ware counties, court records show.
(source: Florida Times-Union)
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