A Henry County murder trial will begin anew, in the wake of efforts by defense attorneys to get the case dismissed.
Defense attorneys Chris M. Toles and Kenneth W. Sheppard went before Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero, Tuesday, seeking to get the case against their clients, Raymond Saysanit and Neil Eugene Armistead, dismissed.
Saysanit and Armistead were arrested in the murder of 28-year-old Joseph Wells, of Griffin. On Oct. 18, 2009, Wells was shot to death while visiting a home at 116 Tye St., in Stockbridge. Henry County police said Wells answered a knock at the door of the residence, moments before being shot.
Saysanit and Armistead are accused of assaulting seven other individuals with a gun at the time of the shooting. Other alleged victims include: Crystal Hulsey, Donnie Ellenburg, Olivia Williamson, Jason Brown, Carole Ann Noschese, Rebekah Adkins, and Brittany Kale.
Judge Amero denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and scheduled the murder trial for Feb. 27.
Saysanit, 28, of Lawrenceville, and Armistead, 32, of Stockbridge, are each charged with malice murder, felony murder, and eight counts of aggravated assault. Armistead is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Both men have pled not guilty to the charges.
Toles represented Saysanit, and Sheppard represented Armistead, during the October murder trial. On Oct. 4, the trial was terminated as a result of a mistrial after the jury was impaneled, according to court documentation. The attorney’s then petitioned the court for “defendant’s plea in bar of trial for former jeopardy and motion to dismiss the case,” according to court documents.
“The first witness [in the case] admitted everyone in the house had been using meth all night,” said defense attorney Sheppard, as he addressed Judge Amero. Sheppard added that the case was going well until the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Dave Slemons, questioned one of the witnesses.
“It was improper and overreaching, and before we could object, the witness [was] answering his question,” said Sheppard.
Defense attorney Toles said the line of questioning by the prosecutor was conducted in “gross negligence.” Toles said Slemons was warned not to disclose certain aspects of the case, which was addressed during pretrial.
“He asked the very questions that were not supposed to come into the case,” said Toles. “My client should not be subjected to another trial.”
“‘Plea in Bar’ is normally set up when the state is losing a case,” Slemons told the judge.
“I don’t see anywhere near where bad judgment was found on my part,” said Slemons. “I don’t see an argument that I was trying to abandon this case. We ask that the motion be denied. We are ready to go to trial.”
Judge Amero told the attorneys Slemons’ line of questioning was based on “foundational questions.” The judge added that he did not believe the prosecutor was trying to cause a mistrial.
“There is nothing in the questions immediately leading up to the response that makes me think that anybody expected it to occur, nevertheless, it did occur, motion denied,” said Amero.
Staff writer Jason Smith contributed to this article.