Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brother Kills Brother, Hunting Accident Not Murder--Ga. Supreme Court

Joshau Hames shot and killed his brother, Sam, in a hunting incident on the family's property, which Georgia prosecutors called murder.  A jury convicted and Joshua Hames has spent 7 years in prison.  This is an excerpt from the Augusta Chronicle:

"Joshua Hames, who was convicted of the 2002 murder of his brother Sam while on a hunting trip on the family's farm in Walton County. The decision found that the indictment against Hames failed to prove he had the criminal intent or recklessness necessary for conviction.

Hames had argued for years that he thought he was shooting a bobcat or other large animal through the scope of his rifle during that ill-fated hunting trip. He said neighbors had reported they'd recently seen a large cat roaming the area, and his brother wasn't wearing the bright orange safety clothing that hunters customarily wear.

But prosecutors said Hames violated the state law that said a hunter commits a felony if he seriously injures another while using a firearm 'by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk.' A jury agreed, convicting him of felony misuse of a firearm while hunting and felony murder. Hames tried repeatedly to appeal the conviction, which was upheld in 2004 by the Georgia Supreme Court. But in 2009 a Baldwin County judge found the indictment "fatally defective" and set aside the convictions. State prosecutors then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The court's ruling, written by Justice David Nahmias, found the state 'failed to produce sufficient evidence at trial to authorize a rational jury to find Hames guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'  [The unanimous Georgia Supreme Court decision] also said that the indictment failed to prove that Hames made a conscious decision to endanger the safety of another person."
I've posted about Cain and Abel, the first murder on Bad Lawyer, previously.  There is no obvious connection or parallel to this killing apart from the incredible familial tragedy.  But since we've also talked about mens rea and felony murder in the past, I thought this striking story was worth passing along.

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