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Supreme Court weighs in on Mangrum counsel

The Georgia Supreme Court has remanded the case of Jamerson Mangrum back to Cherokee County superior court for hearings to determine if he received effective counsel during his December, 2005 trial. Mangrum was convicted of murder, two counts aggravated child molestation, tempering with evidence and concealing a death in connection with the death of 15-year-old Katie Hamlin. Hamlin was raped, strangled and her body set afire. Mangrum, who was 17 at the time of the slaying, is serving a life sentence at Hays State Prison. The high court rejected 11 other errors Mangrum’s new attorneys claimed were made in his original trial. Mangrum is a Lamar County native. The full court summary as published 6.15.09 follows: MANGRUM V. THE STATE (S090525) The Georgia Supreme Court is sending back to the Cherokee County trial court the high-profile case involving the 2002 rape and murder of 15-year-old Katie Hamlin, whose nude, partially burned body was found near Lake Allatoona. In December, 2005, a jury convicted Jamerson Mangrum of her rape and murder and with concealing her death. He was 17 at the time of the crime. In today’s opinion, written by Justice George Carley, all the justices agreed that, ‘[t]he evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find Mangrum guilty of felony murder and the other offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.’ With today’s opinion, the high court has rejected 11 of 12 errors Mangrum claims the trial court made. However, on a procedural rule, it is remanding the case with direction on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. According to the opinion, the evidence shows that at about 1 a.m. on July 2, 2002, Mangrum phoned Katie and spoke to her by phone. An hour later, a car neighbors believed was his was seen speeding away from his house, and five hours after that, her burned body was found dumped near a bridge about a mile from Mangrum’s house. Mangrum gave conflicting statements to police and at trial, first saying he had gone to bed without seeing Katie, then saying he and Katie had consensual sex at his house, and finally testifying they had sex at a friend’s apartment and he then left her there. But two witnesses who were with Mangrum in jail testified he told them he’d sexually assaulted her while another man or men held her down. She had fought back and choked during the attack. The witnesses said Mangrum told them they had burned Katie’s body to destroy evidence linking them to the crime. Forensic experts testified Katie died from asphyxia, and large bruising on her back was consistent with being forcibly held down, perhaps with a knee. Mangrum’s semen was also found in various parts of her body. Following his conviction, Mangrum’s trial attorney filed a motion for new trial. After the judge denied it, Mangrum’s new attorney appeared for the first time in the case and filed an appeal, listing the errors made by the trial court, including that Mangrum was denied effective representation by his trial attorney. ‘Such a claim must be raised at the earliest practicable moment, which requires that it be raised before appeal if the opportunity to do so is available’¦’ today’s opinion says. If it is not raised in time, it is considered barred and cannot be raised later. In this case, however, the high court has concluded the new attorney didn’t have the chance to raise the issue before the appeal. ‘Accordingly, ‘˜we conclude that the claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel has been raised at the earliest practicable moment, and we remand this case to the trial court for a hearing on that claim alone.” In a special concurrence, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears writes that since the case is being remanded on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel, several of the issues argued in his appeal should be left for the trial court to determine. ”¦ I do not believe the majority should resolve the merits of the issues that trial counsel waived, as the trial court should have the initial opportunity to resolve those issues if Mangrum contends, on remand, that trial counsel provided deficient performance by failing to preserve the issues.’ Presiding Justice Carol Hunstein joins in the special concurrence. Attorneys for Appellant (Mangrum): J. Daran Burns, Scott Archer Attorneys for Appellee (State): Thomas Moss, District Attorney, Wallace Rogers, Jr., Asst. D.A., Thurbert Baker, Attorney General, Elizabeth Anne Harris, Asst. A.G.

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