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Motion made to remove death penalty in double-murder trial
Jerry James Easters - photo by FILE
   The defendants in an upcoming double-murder trial filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the death penalty.
    Amid several other motions filed Tuesday, and following a number of motions filed previously, attorneys for Dustin James Coulter, Alexandria Elizabeth Futch Coulter, and Jerry James Easters filed the motion, asking that the death penalty sentencing option be removed due to alleged funding issues.
    The three are charged in the Nov. 21, 2005 murders of Alexandria Coulter’s father and stepmother, Jack  and Paula Futch, in the Futch home on Jack Kennedy Road off Ga. 46 near Smithfield Golf Course.
    Jack and Paula Futch were found stabbed to death in their home after Alexandria Coulter called 911 to report a home invasion early Nov. 21, 2005. Responding deputies found Ms. Coulter tied up. Further investigation resulted in her arrest, as well as the arrests of Easters and Dustin Coulter, Alexandria Coulter’s husband.
    The motion filed Wednesday read, in part, “In this extraordinary capital prosecution, the Office of the Capital Defender has announced that funding is limited and has been unwilling to provide counsel for Defendant necessary funding to enable the Defendant to be effectively represented in a trial for his life.”
    Several attorneys involved in the defense told Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner they have not been paid for services rendered. The State of Georgia is responsible for paying the attorneys. Turner said he would write a court order that the defense attorneys be paid.
    The motion suggested striking the death sentence notice “from this prosecution due to the state of Georgia’s unwillingness to provide sufficient resources that are required as a direct result of its insistence to seek the death penalty ...” and offered an alternative - to continue the case until the state “is ready, willing and able to provide funding sufficient to complete trial.”
    Turner said after Wednesday’s court hearing that he expected to rule on the  motions filed before the next hearing Oct. 26.
No trial date set; deadlines for motions issued
    A date for the trial has not yet been set, and it has been almost two years since the Futch couple were killed.
     The defendants have not filed a request for a speedy trial. According to Internet web site, this does not mean they waive the right to a speedy trial, but actions by the defense that delay a trial can be brought into consideration should a defendant protest that their right to a speedy trial has not been honored.
    A portion of the web site reads: “It is the duty of the prosecution to bring a defendant to trial, and the failure of the defendant to demand the right is not to be construed as a waiver of the right; yet, the defendant’s acquiescence in delay when it works to his advantage should be considered against his later assertion that he was denied the guarantee, and the defendant’s responsibility for the delay would be conclusive.
    Prosecutor Scott Brannen, assistant district attorney with the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, declined comment Wednesday on the case. Turner issued a gag order on the murder case last year.
    During Tuesday’s hearing, Turner issued an order to both the state and the defense stating that all other motions will be filed by Oct. 12, and responses to those motions  will be filed by Oct. 19.
    A hearing date for unheard motions is set for Oct. 26, and a pretrial review hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15.
Easters indicted on unrelated charges
    While the defendants were already in the courtroom, the court decided to move ahead on two indictments against Easters.
    Easters was arraigned on an indictment charging him with the offense of “riot in a penal institution,” stemming from a May 18 incident during which he struck and choked a fellow inmate.
    He was also arraigned on an indictment charging him and another Bulloch County Jail inmate, Ricky Edward Mock, with criminal attempt to escape and interference with government property, stemming from a July 4 -5 incident.
    According to the indictment, Easters and Mock “made a hole in the concrete wall of the Bulloch County Jail ...”
    Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson said the hole was a small one and would not have led to freedom.
    “It wasn’t a big gigantic tunnel - just a hole they were chipping away,” he said. “It wouldn’t have done them any good anyway.”
    Mock is incarcerated on  the following felony charges: criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
    Mock had seven prior convictions before he stuck a gun into the side of a Pizza Hut employee Dec. 22, 2006, and demanded cash. Statesboro Police officers apprehended him after a brief chase.  Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William E. Woodrum later sentenced Mock to a total of 45 years in prison.

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