Prosecution of a woman accused of stabbing to death a pregnant Athens store clerk was delayed for a 2nd time in 2 months Friday because defense attorneys were not ready.
In January, attorneys for Shameeka LaShae Watson told a Clarke County Superior Court judge they had only recently been appointed to the death penalty case and were not familiar enough with it to proceed.
On Friday afternoon, the attorneys again told the judge they weren’t ready because they hadn’t received a response from the Georgia Capital Defender Office, which provides help for indigent defendants facing the death penalty.
“We are still relatively new to (the case) and are trying to get people to assist us with certain things,” defense attorney Eric Eberhardt said.
The attorney told Judge David Sweat that after he became Watson’s attorney Jan. 19, he notified officials at the Capital Defender Office what he needed to prepare for his client’s case, but that he hadn’t heard back.
“At the moment, we’re awaiting a response, and once that happens, the investigation begins and it takes some time,” Eberhardt said.
Sweat seemed impatient with the delay, and told Eberhardt he wanted him to submit a report detailing what assistance he is waiting for from the Capital Defender Office.
He noted that judges in previous death penalty cases have had to call people into court and order them to provide the assistance attorneys needed in order to represent indigent defendants facing the death penalty.
“If we’re going to go down that road, I want to know sooner rather than later ... and not because someone in Atlanta can’t find their pencil,” Sweat said.
Sweat gave Eberhardt until next Friday to file his report, and told attorneys on both sides he will set another hearing within 90 days.
Watson and her boyfriend, Clarence McCord III, both pleaded not guilty in April to charges they murdered 25-year-old Kejuan Charde Hall in December 2010, but when the district attorney filed notice 4 months later that he planned to seek the death penalty, McCord and Watson by law had to be re-arraigned.
McCord entered a 2nd not-guilty plea at his re-arraignment in November.
Watson, who was to be re-arraigned in January, was represented by a Georgia Capital Defender attorney, who withdrew from the case because of an undisclosed conflict.
The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council appointed two local attorneys to represent Watson — Eberhardt and Elizabeth Grant.
McCord’s attorneys have already filed dozens of pretrial motions, including requests to suppress statements McCord made to police.
Sweat in December granted Watson’s request to be tried separately from McCord.
Both defendants were indicted on charges of malice and felony murder, and also with feticide because Hall was 8 weeks pregnant when she was stabbed 31 times in the office of the Golden Pantry at Atlanta Highway and Timothy Road.
Athens-Clarke police have not released a definitive motive for Hall’s murder, though they said the crime may have been a botched robbery or even a for-hire killing.
No money was stolen from the Golden Pantry, police said, and the only thing missing was the surveillance camera recorder.
McCord wrote a letter to Sweat in September, claiming that he and Watson only stumbled onto the murder scene, and they left without notifying police because Watson was on probation and McCord didn’t want her to get in any trouble.
(source: Athens Banner-Herald)