All three defendants accused in the 2009 murder of a 65-year-old woman appeared in Walton County Superior Court Friday under heavy security.
Cory Butler, 30, John Jodie Blackwell Jr., 20, and Barry Marquez Partee, 20, all of Monroe, are facing the death penalty in the home invasion and beating of Epsie Ewing on May 21, 2009 that resulted in her death. She was life-flighted to Atlanta Medical Center where she remained until she died the following month. Her husband, C.F. Ewing, also was injured in the attack but was released from the hospital the same day. He was not present in the courtroom Friday, but other members of the victim’s family, as well as those of the defendants, were present for the hearing.
After reviewing the motions still to be decided, Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton set the dates of Sept. 1 and 2 to complete outstanding motions and set dates for the trials to begin. Although the men have appeared together up until now, Alcovy Judicial District Attorney Layla Zon said they would be tried separately once the actual trial begins, which would probably be sometime early next year.
“That has to be done in death penalty trials and in case any of the defendants take a plea deal and turn state’s witness,” Zon said, adding at this time there is no indication that will happen.
The defense attorney for Butler asked for time to consider whether to prepare a mental health/ mental retardation defense. Benton granted him until Sept. 2 to let it be known if that was the route they would be considering. Another motion to be considered at that time would be the unconstitutionality of death by lethal injection. There had been some question about the origination of the chemicals used by the state of Georgia in lethal injections.
A challenge to the make up of the jury is also to be decided, which Zon said would require inclusion of the figures from the latest census. She said hearing these final three of the 140 pretrial motions that were on the docket should allow for the trial to proceed.
Since two death-penalty trial qualified attorneys for each defendant are required to be present in court, it has been a challenge to schedule hearings when they were all available at the same time.