Summaries of charges, defenses, and outcomes for clients prosecuted in counties throughout Georgia and the Southeast.
Cases of this practice area
Mercer v. Warden (2018)
Charges: Kidnapping (2 counts)
Jessie Mercer was convicted in 2004 of two counts of kidnapping and other offenses in connection with a home invasion and robbery. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison. His co-defendant, Rasaul Rayshad, was convicted of the same offenses at a separate trial.
In 2007, Mercer appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals, claiming, among other things, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for kidnapping. His appeal was denied, and his convictions for kidnapping were upheld.
Co-defendant, Rayshad, filed his appeal with the Georgia Court of Appeals a little later.
In 2008, the Supreme Court of Georgia decided the "Garza case," establishing a new test for determining sufficiency of the the evidence in kidnapping cases.
A month after Garza, the Georgia Court of Appeals considered Rayshad's case. The court reversed Rayshad's kidnapping convictions, finding the evidence insufficient under the new Garza test. Soon after, Rayshad was released from prison, and given a second chance at life. He's subsequently gotten married, started a business, raised children, led a honorable life.
In light of the Rayshad's reversal, Mercer filed for habeas corpus relief in 2011, arguing again that the evidence was insufficient to support his kidnapping convictions, especially in light of Garza and Rayshad. The habeas court denied Mercer's petition, upholding his convictions.
In 2016, Mercer appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, and the Court agreed to hear the case.
In January 2018, the Court approached Mercer Law professor, Sarah Gerwig-Moore, and adjunct professor, Scott Key, about handling the case through the "Habeas Project" - a one-of-a-kind student clinic at Mercer Law School, created by Gerwig-Moore, and currently led by Key. The Project enables Mercer Law students and private practitioners, under faculty supervision, to handle habeas cases pending before the Supreme Court of Georgia, where the petitioner cannot afford to hire a private lawyer. The Project has successfullly handled dozens of such cases, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to help Mr. Mercer.
Gerwig-Moore and Key recruited private attorney, Foss Hodges, to work on Mr. Mercer's case pro bono. Hodges is a criminal defense lawyer with Decatur law firm, Peters, Rubin & Sheffield. He's also a 2013 Mercer Law graduate and former student in Gerwig-Moore's other clinical projects: The Public Defender Clinic, and the Public Interest Practicum. He was honored to get involved.
With the help of Mercer Law student and Habeas Project participant, Robert Evans, Hodges filed a written brief in Mr. Mercer's case and conducted oral argument at the Supreme Court of Georgia. In August 2018, the Court issued it's decision, finding that the habeas court was wrong to deny Mr. Mercer's petition, because, indeed, the evidence was not sufficient to support Mr. Mercer's kidnapping convictions.
State v. John Doe (2013)
Charges: Aggravated Child Molestation (4 Counts)
The defendant was represented by other counsel in his jury trial on allegations made by his 2 foster children that he placed his mouth on their vaginas and put his penis in their mouths. The defendant was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to serve 60 years in prison.
Mr. Peters presented 3 days of evidence at the Motion for New Trial hearing which was never heard by the jury. The evidence included impeaching facts from the alleged victims' school records, therapy records, juvenile court records, and DFACS records, as well as testimony from 6 lay witnesses and 3 expert witnesses. The evidence created a post-trial record which was then appealed by attorney, Scott Key, resulting in a reversal of defendant's convictions in the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court.
State v. John Doe (2013)
Charges: Appeal from "Sexually Dangerous Predator" classification by the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board
The defendant had previously been placed on the State Sex Offender Public Registry for his prior conviction for Child Molestation. The defendant was then notified that he had been classified as a "Sexually Dangerous Predator" requiring, in addition to registration on the State Sex Offender Public Registry, that he also wear an ankle monitor (GPS electrical tracking device) for life.
Mr. Peters served as co-counsel in the appeal of the defendant's classification as a "Sexually Dangerous Predator." Mr. Peters filed an open-records request and obtained the psychological evaluations used by the review board in defendant's case. Mr. Peters then interviewed the defendant's treating psychologist, obtained his treatment records, and a letter in support of the appeal. Counsel then had an additional expert review the records of the board and the defendant's treatment records. The expert interviewed and tested the defendant, and ultimately issued a favorable opinion. The defendant's probation officers also provided letters in support of the appeal. All of the above was included in the appeal as well as a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the review board. The Review Board then notified the defendant they were withdrawing the "Sexually Dangerous Predator" classification and defendant was was being released from the GPS ankle monitor requirements.
State v. John Doe (2007)
Charges: Aggravated Child Molestation, Child Molestation
The Defendant was represented by other counsel in his jury trial on allegations made by his 7 year old niece that he had penetrated her vagina with his finger. The Defendant was found guilty and sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
Mr. Peters presented testimony from four expert witnesses addressing psychological and medical issues that had not been presented by the Defendant s trial counsel. The Court of Appeals reversed the Defendant s convictions stating that the trial lawyer s failure to present evidence to impeach the mother of the alleged victim as well as failure to present medical expert testimony was ineffective assistance of counsel. Defendant released from prison.
State v. Jane Doe (2007)
Charges: Felony Murder (Shaken Baby Syndrome)
The Defendant was represented by other counsel at her jury trial on allegations that she had shaken to death a six month old baby boy in her case. The Defendant was sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. Peters was successful in having the Georgia Supreme Court affirm the ruling of the trial judge in setting aside all guilty verdicts after hearing testimony from seven medical expert witnesses whose testimony indicated the child died from sickle cell disease and not from shaking. Motion for New Trial Granted. Defendant released from prison.
State v. John Doe (2005)
Charges: Aggravated Child Molestation, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Child Molestation, Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
The Defendant was represented by other counsel at trial. The Defendant had been found guilty following a jury trial resulting from allegations from Defendant s 14 year old daughter of alleged acts he had committed during a visitation weekend with the Defendant.
Mr. Peters conducted a hearing on the Motion for New Trial over several days presenting testimony from witnesses who observed the alleged victim following the allegations and presented expert testimony regarding said behavior which had not been heard by the jury. A New Trial was Granted and Defendant s 25 year prison sentence was set aside and Defendant released from prison.
State v. John Doe (2000)
Charges: Child Molestation
The Defendant was represented by other counsel in his jury trial on allegations made by his 5 year old step son. The Defendant was found guilty and sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
Mr. Peters conducted a hearing on the Motion for New Trial presenting psychological expert testimony that the child s behavior was consistent with the dysfunctional manner in which he had been raised by his mother, not from being molested by Defendant. The trial judge set aside the jury verdict. The Defendant was released from prison.
John Doe v. State (1998)
Charges: Child Molestation
The Defendant was represented by other counsel at trial. The Defendant had been found guilty and sentenced to prison.
Douglas N. Peters authored the Amicus brief on behalf of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Defendant's conviction was reversed. The decision resulted in changing in the law of Georgia to allow those accused of child abuse to present expert testimony to inform juries of the proper techniques to be utilized in the interview of child victims, as well as the unreliability of the statements of children when improper techniques are used. The Defendant was released from prison.
United States v. Jane Doe (1997)
Charges: Insurance Fraud
The Defendant was prosecuted along with her husband in what was reported to be the largest insurance fraud case ever prosecuted in the United States.
Defendant's sentence reduced from 12 years to serve to 3 years to serve and the Defendant released. Defendant was represented by Douglas N. Peters and co-counsel Bobby Lee Cook.