TIME

Man Cited for Eating a Cheeseburger While Driving

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Double cheeseburger Getty Images

Put out an APB on a royale with cheese

Drive-thru enthusiasts, let this be a warning. A man got a ticket in an Atlanta suburb last week, after a police officer observed him driving for two miles while eating a cheeseburger — specifically, a double quarter pounder with cheese.

“[The officer] said specifically three times, you can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger,” Madison Tuner told WSB-TV. “Maybe I was enjoying the burger too much I needed to tone it down. I was certainly willing to do so but I didn’t expect to be fined or punished.”

Turner, from Alabama, was cited by Cobb County authorities for violating Georgia distracted driving laws, and will have his day in court on Feb. 3. The amount that Turner will have to pay was unclear.

A 2012 study from out of the University of Leeds found that drivers have a 44% slower reaction time than usual. That’s more significant than using a phone (which decreases reaction time by 37.4%) and alcohol at the legal limit (which slows things by 12.5%).

And for those who have beef with the food in question — “Maybe if you had a giant pizza in both hands and you weren’t holding the wheel or maybe if you had a watermelon, half watermelon and you were just diving into it holding it with both hands, maybe that would be something,” a traffic attorney told WSB-TV — a 2009 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 80% of all car accidents involved drivers who were eating. The biggest food culprit was burgers.

[WSB-TV]

TIME Civil Rights

The Atlanta World of Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. King Addresses Meeting
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a protest meeting in Atlanta in 1957 Robert W. Kelley—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Growing up, King’s middle-class background offered some insulation from brutalities of the Jim Crow system — but there were no guarantees

The Auburn Avenue neighborhood where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in January 1929 was both a spatial and human embodiment of Atlanta’s paradoxical reputation for both strict racial segregation and black economic success. Noted journalist and renowned apostle of the “New South,” Henry W. Grady, may have strained the credulity of his New York audience in 1886 when he insisted that he bore no resentment toward his beloved Atlanta’s arch-nemesis, General William Tecumseh Sherman, but Grady’s claim that “from the ashes he left us … we have raised a brave and beautiful city” was more than the idle boast of a shameless booster. Atlanta’s speedily restored railroad connections and postbellum emergence as the Southeast’s principal trade and transportation hub all but assured its magnetic allure. By 1900 it was home to 90,000 people, more than a third of whom were black. A bloody race riot in 1906 left at least a dozen and quite likely more black Atlantans dead, yet — with the city’s “Forward Atlanta,” crusade for economic growth proceeding apace — the city’s black population nonetheless continued to swell. It stood at 90,000 by the time King was born into a well-established black middle class of merchants, lawyers, educators (the city boasted six private black colleges well before 1900) and ministers, concentrated in the city’s West Side on and around Auburn Avenue, which a prominent resident once called “the richest Negro street in the world.”

If Atlanta had established a reputation as a relative mecca of upward mobility for black Georgians looking to better themselves materially, it had proved no less a font of opportunity for those of a more spiritual bent, including the infant King’s father and maternal grandfather, both of whom had been born into sharecropping families in nearby rural counties. Martin (né Michael) Luther King Sr. had arrived in Atlanta as an aspiring, though scarcely literate, young minister in 1918. His determined efforts to improve himself and his circumstances did not suffer in the least from his fortuitous marriage to Alberta Williams, whose own father’s meager rural origins had not prevented him from building his small congregation into the powerful Ebenezer Baptist Church, where, upon his death in 1931, he would be succeeded in the pulpit by his son-in-law. Growing up, the younger Martin’s solidly middle-class background offered some insulation from brutalities of the Jim Crow system, but there were no guarantees. Scarcely a year after King was born, Dennis Hubert, a sophomore at Morehouse College and also the son of a prominent black minister, was brutally murdered for allegedly insulting two young white women. For all this atrocity said about the limitations of middle-class standing for the city’s blacks, the young man’s white killers were arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison, an outcome highly unlikely, to say the least, in any rural county anywhere in the state at that point.

It was not surprising that a historian of that era found Atlanta “quite evidently not proud of Georgia” or that, across the state, all but a very few whites heartily reciprocated the sentiment. Indeed, this was the primary reason that Georgia’s overwhelming rural legislative majority had taken formal action in 1917 to quarantine the capital city’s insidious racial and political moderation. This was accomplished through the brazenly anti-urban artifice of the “county-unit” electoral system, which effectively guaranteed that the preferences of voters in Atlanta, population 270,000 in 1930, could be neutralized completely by those of voters in the state’s three smallest counties, which had a combined population of scarcely 10,000.

This was a situation tailor-made for a rustic, race-baiting demagogue like Eugene Talmadge. Peppering his speeches with the N word, stonewalling efforts to improve the schools, and reveling in the impotent rebukes of “them lying Atlanta newspapers,” Talmadge claimed the governorship for the first of four times in 1932.

For all he might have done to impede progress across the state as a whole, however, Talmadge’s impact on Atlanta itself was notably less severe. Despite the economic reversals of the Great Depression, the infusions of cash from a variety of New Deal programs had already paid off for Atlantans by the end of the 1930s, with a greatly expanded and modernized infrastructure and dramatic improvement in schools, hospitals and other public institutions. The overpowering urge to show the world that Atlanta was back and better than ever was more than apparent in December 1939 when the film version of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind premiered at the Loew’s Grand Theater. In keeping with the city’s now well-known penchant for self-promotion, PR-savvy Mayor William B. Hartsfield spared no exertion to assure a glittery Hollywood presence for the event including, of course, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and the film’s other white actors. Fearing repercussions from local whites, however, he extended no such hospitality to Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen or other black cast members. In the end, the only black participants of note in the entire affair were the members of the choir at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, including the son of its pastor. Just shy of his 10th birthday, Martin King sang along as, in keeping with the film’s blatant racial stereotyping, the group, dressed as slaves, performed spirituals for an all-white audience at a Junior League charity gala.

King and Hartsfield would cross paths frequently in the years to come. Under Hartsfield’s leadership, Atlanta would leave a racially fraught Birmingham, Ala., in its dust as it rode the crest of World War II economic expansion to undisputed pre-eminence as the South’s most dynamic city. Steadily changing with the times, the popular and uber-connected Hartsfield would draw on his gift for orchestration again and again as he presided over the desegregation of downtown businesses and the city’s tiny but notably uneventful first steps toward integrating its public schools. Meanwhile, returned to share Ebenezer’s bully pulpit with his father, the younger Rev. King began to cast doubt on the mayor’s vaunted claim that his city was “too busy to hate” by consistently pushing the envelope of social change further and faster than Hartsfield had envisioned. Though Atlanta had provided a unique environment in which King could become the man he was, the city still had a ways to go.

Atlanta had found its breezy, boosterist persona in the artful and charming Hartsfield. It would be slower, however, to acknowledge its conscience — the 1964 Nobel laureate who, the day after returning from Oslo amid global acclaim, forfeited the acclaim of the local business establishment by venturing scarcely two blocks from his church to join workers picketing for better wages at the city’s Scripto Pen Company. Ironically, but surely fittingly as well, some 30 years later, the plant’s remains would be bulldozed in order to provide parking for visitors to the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District.

James C. Cobb is Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia and a former president of the Southern Historical Association.

TIME society

Growing Up in Atlanta, Every Day Was MLK Day

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

"If you grow up black in King's hometown, you can't help but see his story intertwine with your own"

To grow up in Atlanta is to be always aware of the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to see it intertwine with your own fate.

I was born there in 1978, less than a mile from the house where King grew up. As a schoolchild, I like others, visited Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue—the street where King was born, worked, died, and is honored. To see King’s neighborhood, and the home he was born in, humanized him for us children, letting us know that he was once young like us, wrestling with classes and playing with siblings. We went to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King declared, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” and to the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization he led until his death in 1968. We visited the King Center built by his widow to spread King’s nonviolent doctrine, and saw the eternal flame that burns near his tomb and reminds us that his work endures.

My grandparents—native Floridians who first came to Atlanta as college students in the late 1930s—and my mother tried to shield my brother and me from the indignities they suffered during the era of Jim Crow. They did this mostly by trying to give us a better life; I seldom spoke to them about the racism they endured. But the living history was everywhere in Atlanta, and the frequency with which I saw King’s lieutenants and associates on television reminded me of both the progress we’d achieved and the work still left to be done. John Lewis, for example, was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he was gassed and beaten badly on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, during the start of a march to the state capitol that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” But he went on to represent Atlanta as a U.S. congressman and has fought for decades to preserve the Voting Rights Act he, King, and hundreds of foot soldiers helped usher into law.

When I became a journalist, I found myself gravitating toward telling the stories of black people, and focusing specifically on the legacy of the civil rights movement. As a college student, I got my first reporting job at the Atlanta Daily World, a black newspaper first published in 1928. The office was on Auburn Avenue—the same street I’d first visited as a child. I was working blocks away from where King worked.

By taking on civil rights as a beat in Atlanta, I not only had a front row seat to history, but the ability to ask those who lived it how they felt about current-day racial struggles. It was an extraordinary opportunity.

Even though I have left Atlanta, I carry all this history with me. This fall, almost a half-century after the enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act that King supported, I spent a few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri, as a reporter for Fusion covering the Michael Brown shooting and the ensuing protests.

From the day I arrived, the parallels between the Ferguson context and that of King’s struggles were everywhere.

Even though segregation is no longer legal and discussion of the civil rights movement has appeared in textbooks for decades, I still found neighborhoods in Ferguson so divided along color lines that I thought I had stepped into those black-and-white TV images of the 1960s I had seen. In the same way Bull Connor referred to King and other protesters as “outside agitators” in Birmingham, authorities and some residents in Ferguson referred to “outsiders” and the “negative influence of the media” on the African-American community—as if this community had no grounds to be unhappy of their own volition with the status quo before August 9, 2014. I talked to people on both sides of the racial divide who did not know each other’s daily lives.

The way the police deployed tear gas, dogs, smoke bombs, and riot gear certainly reminded me of stories I’d been told by people like Lewis. Images of clashing police and protesters in Ferguson—and the real-time reactions on social media—reminded me of the nation’s horror at the sight of water hoses, clubs, and snarling dogs 50 years before.

The Ferguson rallies, both there and elsewhere in the country, were full of young people—much like those during the civil rights movement. But there were important differences, too. Unlike the masses who rallied around King in Alabama, there was no single leader of the protests I covered in Ferguson night after night. The shooting of Michael Brown had been the catalyst, but inequality—and specifically unequal treatment of black people in the criminal justice system—was the real subject, one with many stories to tell.

During the 1960s, the black church had a central role, serving as the moral foundation of the movement. In Ferguson, churches served as the site of several rallies and meetings, and preachers could regularly be seen keeping the peace on the front lines during protests. But the burgeoning movement was neither started nor maintained through the church.

And while the protesters on West Florissant Avenue were mostly peaceful demonstrators, there were some who would have disappointed King—looting, committing arson, firing guns.

There are some who think of the events in Ferguson as an isolated incident, simply a moment in time. But to me it seemed like part of the continuum in the struggle for progress in our country. When I interviewed King’s aides, they were always quick to mention that the civil rights movement didn’t die with King; it’s ongoing. While our nation has made racial progress, we still have far to go before we achieve full equality among America’s citizens. The reaction to what happened in Ferguson exposed that chasm anew.

Errin Whack is a journalist whose articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous outlets, including Fusion News, The Guardian, The Associated Press, and The Washington Post. She currently serves as vice president of print for the National Association of Black Journalists and lives in Washington, D.C. She wrote this for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Watch a Mourning Dog Standing Guard Over Her Puppy’s Grave

A stray dog in Georgia refuses to leave her puppy's grave in Georgia

A stray dog in Georgia has taken residence in Savannah’s Laurel Grove North Cemetery after burying her deceased puppy among the headstones, reports The New York Daily News.

Aspiring photographer Hunter Cone, 15, first spotted the mother dog sitting beside her late pup while he was taking photos in the cemetery on Jan. 6. Cone returned with his mother to try and feed the mourning animal, but she ran off.

Cone came back again the following day, and found the dog standing guard in the same spot, but now with her puppy buried next to her.

“She wouldn’t let us get within seven feet of her,” Hunter told the Daily News. “She wasn’t aggressive. She didn’t bark at us or anything.”

Rescuers have been feeding the dog and working to safely remove the grieving mom from the cemetery and into a shelter, even bringing in another puppy to distract the canine. So far attempts to lure the dog away from her own puppy’s grave have not been fruitful.

“If this doesn’t prove that dogs have feelings, just like humans do, I don’t think anything else will,” said Cone.

Along with wanting to help the mourning stray, Cone hopes this story raises awareness about Georgia’s animal control laws, which prevent rescue groups from taking in strays unless the group is contracted by the government.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME georgia

Georgia Executes Vietnam Veteran for Killing Police Officer in Traffic Stop

Andrew Howard Brannan
Andrew Howard Brannan. Reuters

Lawyers said the shooting was tied to mental illness directly traced to Andrew Brannan's military service

(JACKSON, Ga.) — A man who fatally shot a sheriff’s deputy who stopped him for speeding on a Georgia interstate was put to death Tuesday for the 1998 killing, which was captured on the patrol car’s video camera.

Andrew Howard Brannan, 66, was pronounced dead at 8:33 p.m. Tuesday after a single-drug injection at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of the January 1998 shooting death of Kyle Dinkheller, a 22-year-old sheriff’s deputy in Laurens County, central Georgia.

“I extend my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle’s parents and his wife and his two children,” Brannan said in a statement moments before the injection was administered.

Lawyers for Brannan, a Vietnam veteran, had unsuccessfully argued to authorities to spare the inmate’s life, saying the shooting was tied to mental illness directly traced to Brannan’s military service.

Dinkheller had stopped Brannan for driving 98 mph and demanded he take his hands from his pockets during a traffic stop, officials said Brannan then began cursing, dancing in the street and saying “shoot me” before he rushed the deputy. After a scuffle, Brannan pulled a high-powered rifle from his car and shot Dinkheller at least nine times, authorities said.

The confrontation was captured by a video camera in Dinkheller’s patrol car and a microphone he wore. Parts including the scuffle between the two happened off camera, according to court documents. But Dinkheller can be heard yelling orders at Brannan, who responded with expletives, authorities said. Brannan can also be seen crouching by his car and firing at the deputy as Dinkheller yelled at him to stop. Brannan walked toward the patrol car, still firing, exhausted one magazine, reloaded and continued firing, authorities said.

Police found Brannan the next day hiding under a camouflage tarp near his home. He had been shot in the stomach, apparently by Dinkheller.

Dinkheller, who was married, had been promoted months before to an elite interstate highway squad. He had nearly three years with the sheriff’s department.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles held a hearing Monday on a petition for clemency from Brannan’s lawyers and denied the request to commute the sentence to life without parole.

“Is it right to execute a mentally-ill veteran whose sole incidence of violent behavior is traceable directly and inexorably to mental illness resulting from his combat service?” Brannan’s lawyers had written in that clemency petition.

Brannan volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army in 1968 and received two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star for his service in the Vietnam War, the clemency petition said, adding he was repeatedly exposed to death and violence in Vietnam.

Veterans Administration doctors had diagnosed Brannan with post-traumatic stress disorder in 1984 and determined that his condition had deteriorated to the point of 100 percent disability by 1990, the petition said. That mental illness was compounded by bipolar disorder diagnosed in 1996, his lawyers added.

Brannan was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. He challenged the legality of his conviction and sentence in 2003, and a state court judge threw out his sentence on grounds that his trial lawyer failed to present complete mental health defenses. But the Georgia Supreme Court later tossed out that ruling and reinstated the death sentence.

TIME Crime

Vietnam Vet Loses Bid to Stop Execution on PTSD Claim

Andrew Brennan was convicted of shooting and murdering a 22-year-old cop

A decorated Vietnam veteran who argued he was suffering from post-traumatic stress when he killed a sheriff’s deputy in 1998 lost a bid for clemency on the eve of his scheduled execution. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole declined to commute the death sentence of Andrew Brannan to life in prison after hearing from prosecutors and defense lawyers at a Monday hearing.

Brannan was convicted of murdering Laurens County deputy Kyle Dinkheller, who had stopped him for driving 98 mph. Dash-cam video showed Brannan dancing in the street and saying “shoot me” before he pulled a rifle from his car and…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME georgia

Judge Could Rule in Dispute Over MLK Bible and Nobel Medal

US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, display
Martin Luther King, displays his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10, 1964 AFP/Getty Images

Both relics reside in a safe deposit box, the keys held since March by an Atlanta judge

(ATLANTA) — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s traveling Bible hasn’t gone on regular display since President Barack Obama used it while taking his second oath of office two years ago. The public hasn’t seen the slain civil rights icon’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal in recent years, either.

Both relics reside in a safe deposit box, the keys held since March by an Atlanta judge presiding over the latest — and in many eyes, the ugliest — fight between King’s heirs.

The Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., which is controlled by Martin Luther King III and his younger brother, Dexter Scott King, asked a judge a year ago to order their sister Bernice to turn over their father’s Nobel medal and traveling Bible. The brothers want to sell them to a private buyer.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney could decide the case at a hearing Tuesday or let it go to trial. He said when he ordered Bernice to hand over the Bible and medal to the court’s custody that it appeared likely the estate will win the case.

This is at least the fifth lawsuit between the siblings in the past decade, but this one crosses the line, Bernice argued in February from the pulpit of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where her father and grandfather preached. Her father cherished these two items, which speak to the very core of who he was, she said.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald, who served as assistant pastor at Ebenezer from 1978 to 1984 and sides with Bernice but describes himself as a friend of the whole family, told The Associated Press: “You don’t sell Bibles and you don’t get but one Nobel Peace Prize. There are some items that you just don’t put a price on.”

The estate’s lawyers have not responded to requests for comment from the King brothers. At a hearing last year, a lawyer who represented the estate at the time said they want to sell the two items because the estate needs the money.

Paying lawyers to enforce the rights to King’s words and image is expensive, attorney William Hill reminded the judge, drawing chuckles.

The estate is a private entity, so its finances aren’t public, and court records don’t elaborate on the estate’s need for cash.

Whether to sell the Bible and the medal is not up to the judge, or even part of the lawsuit, which is purely an ownership dispute.

Lawyers for Bernice have argued, among other things, that King gave the Nobel medal to his wife as a gift, meaning that it is part of Coretta Scott King’s estate. Bernice is the administrator of her mother’s estate.

King’s heirs have previously parted with parts of his legacy. They sold a collection of more than 10,000 of his personal papers and books in 2006 for $32 million, a collection now housed at Morehouse College, King’s alma mater.

Two separate appraisers, Leila Dunbar and Clive Howe, told the AP they would expect the medal to sell for about $5 million to $10 million, and possibly more, based on what other Nobel medals have gone for and King’s place in history.

Dunbar said she would expect the Bible to sell for at least $200,000 and possibly more than $400,000. Howe said it would probably go for about $1 million.

If they are sold through a private sale, which can bring substantially higher sums from buyers who want to secure items before they get to auction, the medal alone could fetch $15 million to $20 million, Howe said.

Both items have enormous societal value and should be on public display, said Barbara Andrews, director of education and interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bible is important because of who King was, and the Nobel Peace Prize because of what it signified — that the fight for civil rights was being recognized on a world stage, she said.

While museums and books can talk about the medal, being able to see it renders it tangible, “more than a photograph, more than us just talking or writing about it,” Andrews said.

“We like to own things. We like to touch things. We like to see them with our eyes. It satisfies that need in us to see the physical manifestation of the award.”

Even in the hands of Bernice, though, neither item has regularly been available to the public.

A replica of the medal has been on display at the King Center for about 17 years, but it’s unclear when the medal itself was last shown, King Center spokesman Steve Klein said.

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. Among his children, Martin III got his father’s name, while Dexter got his looks. Bernice followed her father into the ministry and shares his gift for public speaking. And the firstborn, Yolanda, was known as a peacekeeper.

Even before she died in 2007, though, the siblings had taken their quarrels public and gone through periods where they didn’t speak to each other.

In December 2005, Bernice and Martin successfully fought a push by Yolanda and Dexter, who along with other trustees of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change wanted to sell it to the National Park Service. In 2008, two years after the death of their mother and a year after Yolanda died, a long-simmering dispute between the surviving siblings boiled over, with three lawsuits filed between them in as many months.

In August 2013 — on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — the estate asked a judge to stop the King Center, where Bernice is the CEO, from using his image, likeness and memorabilia, arguing that the center wasn’t caring for King artifacts properly.

That case is pending.

TIME georgia

Georgia Police Chief Shoots Wife on New Year’s Day

Peachtree City Police Chief William McCollom
Peachtree City Police Chief William McCollom, right, with an officer from his department in August, 2014. Peachtree City Police Dept.

Police Chief William McCollom says he shot his wife accidentally

(PEACHTREE CITY, Ga.) — Investigators say a police chief in Georgia reported accidentally shooting his wife early New Year’s Day.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Sherry Lang says Peachtree City police Chief William McCollom called 911 around 4:15 a.m. Thursday and reported that he accidentally shot his wife.

Margaret McCollom was flown to a hospital. Police say she’s in critical condition.

Lang said she could not discuss the circumstances of the shooting because of the ongoing investigation. No charges were immediately filed. Authorities were planning a 2 p.m. news conference.

Peachtree City officials say McCollom has been placed on administrative leave until an investigation and internal review are complete. Local authorities have turned over the investigation to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and local district attorney’s office.

Peachtree City, with about 34,000 people, is about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta.

TIME weather

Four Killed by Tornadoes in Mississippi

Severe Weather Mississippi
Police inspect Kids' Kampus, a day-care facility after a tornado ripped the roof off of the building in Sumrall, Miss., on Dec. 23, 2014 Eli Baylis—AP

The state and region are bracing for more bad weather ahead of Christmas

At least four people in Mississippi were killed by tornadoes on Tuesday, in what a Weather Channel meteorologist described as possibly the deadliest December tornado occurrence in Mississippi since 1953.

Two of the deaths were in Marion County, and the other two in a mobile home in Jones County, NBC News reports.

Meanwhile, tornadoes and hail are continuing to scuttle holiday travel plans across the southeastern U.S. At least two tornadoes were reported in Louisiana and Georgia, and a tornado watch was in effect on Tuesday for parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

More than 5,600 flights were delayed in the U.S. on Tuesday, as of 10:00 p.m., and almost 850 were canceled, according to FlightAware.com.

[NBC]

TIME justice

Execution Set for Man Whose Drunk Lawyer Botched His Defense

Robert Wayne Holsey
Convicted murderer Robert Wayne Holsey who is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 9, 2014. Georgia Department of Corrections/AP

His attorney drank a quart of vodka a night

In 1997, Andy Prince’s life was in a downward spiral. The Georgia attorney was drinking a quart of vodka a night. He stole $100,000 from a client. He was arrested for disorderly conduct after threatening to shoot his neighbors. But none of that prevented him from representing Robert Wayne Holsey, a Georgia man convicted of shooting a deputy sheriff and scheduled to die this week thanks to what Holsey’s current lawyers describe as unthinkable and almost criminally poor legal representation.

On Dec. 17, 1995, Holsey shot and killed Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Will Robinson in Milledgeville, Ga., after the officer pulled Holsey over for a suspected robbery. At the time, Georgia had no public defender office, leaving it up to judges to appoint a lawyer, often resorting to attorneys they knew personally. In this case, Prince was chosen to defend Holsey.

MORE: Ohio looks to shield lethal injection drugmakers

“When [Prince] took on Holsey’s case, he was in a lot of trouble,” said attorney Brian Kammer, the director of the Georgia Resource Center who is currently representing Holsey. “He was barely able to represent him. He was a chronic heavy drinker, an alcoholic. And it impacted his performance.”

Kammer says that in Holsey’s sentencing phase, Prince barely prepared the basis for why his client should be spared the death sentence. At the time, Holsey’s IQ was about 70, meaning by some standards he was intellectually disabled. Prince provided little evidence in court to bolster that defense and largely failed to provide the jury with information about Holsey’s childhood, which was rife with abuse and could have persuaded jurors to spare his life. A jury sentenced Holsey to death in 1997.

In the months and years following the trial, Prince was disbarred, sentenced to 10 years for stealing client money and later testified that he shouldn’t have been representing Holsey in the first place.

MORE: Missouri just tied its lethal injection record)

Yet the death sentence remains. While Holsey is set to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, his lawyers are working to halt his execution. On Monday, Kammer presented Holsey’s case to Georgia’s five-member clemency board, arguing that Georgia’s standard for determining intellectual disability is unconstitutional, a strict standard that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Hall v. Florida that it was unconstitutional to automatically prohibit anyone with an IQ of 70 or above from being considered mentally disabled. The Florida law initially had a strict cutoff that made those with an IQ of 70 or above eligible for the death penalty.

The parole panel, however, denied clemency on Monday, and the Georgia Supreme Court decided against a stay of execution in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday. Holsey’s lawyers have presented a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court to halt the execution, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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