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Today, the Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the convictions of Matthew Deres and Sanford Barton. Copies of the opinions are provided below.

Deres was tried and convicted for one count of Rape in November of 2018. He was later sentenced to Life in Prison. On appeal, Deres claimed that the evidence presented to the jury was insufficient, that the trial court committed errors by admitting evidence of his internet search history and failed to send medical records to the jury deliberation room, and that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals rejected all of these arguments with the three judge panel unanimously affirming the conviction and sentence.

As to the issue of his internet search history, evidence was presented that Deres had recently searched online on how to pass a lie detector test, the statute of limitations for rape, maps of Mexico and Candaa, and the how long DNA lasts after a sexual encounter. Deres argued that his attorney should have objected to those records being presented at trial because his privacy was violated under Georgia law. The Court of Appeals ruled that Deres did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his internet search history because the device he used was in his wife's name, that they used the same passwords for numerous accounts, and essentially shared this type of information.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Fletcher, who also tried the case, handled the appeal.

Sanford Barton was convicted of Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, Kidnapping for Ransom, two counts of Aggravated Assault, False Imprisonment, Possession of a Firearm During a Felony, and two counts of Tampering with Evidence. Because Barton had previous convictions of Rape, Aggravated Sodomy, and Armed Robbery, under Georgia law, he received the only available sentence, Life Without the Possibility of Parole. The trial showed that Barton was a high ranking member of the Ghost Face gang. He committed many of these crimes along with a then-girlfriend.

Barton claimed on appeal that there was insufficient evidence of the Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, that the trial court should have given the jury the option of convicting him of kidnapping, and that some of his charges should have "merged" for the purposes of sentencing. Barton also claimed that his trial attorney was ineffective. This included a claim that he may have pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence. The Court of Appeals found that there was no "reasonable probability" that he would have accepted a plea offer based on his insistence in going to trial.

Barton's appeal was handled by Assistant District Attorney Dave Williamson, who also tried the case.

Deres v. State, A12A0407
Download PDF • 85KB

Barton v. State, A12A0114
Download PDF • 112KB

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This morning, Amorieyan Tyqwon Weaver (pictured 2nd) entered a guilty plea to Murder and related charges in the shooting death of Quindadarious Russell (pictured 1st). He received a sentence of Life in prison for Malice Murder and 15 additional years for other charges and crimes. Weaver was 17 years old at the time of the murder and Russell was 19.

Less than one month before the murder, Weaver went to a female’s house to confront the female about her giving one of his shirts to another male. When no one answered the door at the female’s house, Weaver begins to stomp on the hood of her car. The female refused to open the door and Weaver began to shoot into the apartment. No one was struck by the bullets that entered the residence. After leaving the scene, Weaver sent the other male a message that he would shoot up the apartment again.

Then, on October 19, 2020, Weaver went to Russell’s residence on Springfield Way and shot Russell in the head through the bathroom window. The investigation into this murder included extensive digging through phone records, surveillance video, and social media records. The evidence showed the Weaver and Russell had a recent relationship that Weaver did not want others knowing about. Weaver was upset with Russell because Russell did not want the same thing Weaver wanted in the relationship.

Weaver used social media accounts registered to an ex-girlfriend to communicate with Russell. After the murder, Weaver attempted to get this ex-girlfriend to delete this social media account. The timeline of messages between Weaver and Russell match with the surveillance videos of Weaver entering a vehicle that is seen entering the victim’s neighborhood.

In addition to admitting his guilt to the Malice Murder, the Defendant also pleaded guilty to Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and Possession of Firearm During the Commission of a Felony. He also entered a guilty plea to the prior incident which included two counts of Aggravated Assault, two counts of Criminal Damage to Property in the First Degree, and Possession of Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.

The case was prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Amber Dally, Assistant District Attorney Briana Carter, Investigator Lisa Rivers, Victim Advocate Ellen Bales, and Legal Assistant Cami Odom. The investigation was handled by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, the Newton County District Attorney’s Office, the Covington Police Department (handled the shooting incident the month prior), the GBI Crime Lab, the Coroner, and Covington-Newton 911 Center.

The District Attorney’s Office is proud of this resolution that involves Weaver admitting guilt to the Murder of Quin Russell (pictured first). We hope that this brings a level of closure to his family. Chief ADA Dally and ADA Carter were prepared to present this case to a jury during the week of June 5th. The hard work of these prosecutors and others in the District Attorney’s Office played a big part in Weaver admitting guilty prior to the start of a trial. – DA Randy McGinley

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As National Child Abuse Prevention Month ended last month, I hope we all continue to take that cause to heart not just during April, but all year. We owe a big thank you to all those whose job is to help victims of child abuse. This includes victim advocates, child advocacy centers, DFCS, therapists and counselors, sexual assault nurses and other medical professionals, and many more.

But I want to extend a special thank you to a small group of amazing individuals: prosecutors who handle child abuse cases, including physical and/or sexual abuse. These individuals spend countless hours fighting inside and outside of courtrooms for the most vulnerable among us.

A high percentage of these investigations begin well after the abuse occurred as it is quite common for children to not immediately disclose abuse, especially when the abuse is committed by a person close to the child. Further, due to the nature of these crimes, there are rarely witnesses to the abuse. When someone is convicted of these crimes, they rightfully face very lengthy prison sentences. The combination of these realities leads to many child abuse cases resolving only after a trial.

Prosecutors who try these cases have an enormous weight on their shoulders. These trials involve a child victim having to testify or a victim so young that he or she cannot testify. Take a moment to think about that, a child as young as 4 or 5 years old having to talk in open court about the worst thing that has ever happened to them, and they have to discuss it in detail in front of the person that abused them. If a prosecutor is nervous or scared, or the child does not trust the prosecutor, that child might just shut down on the stand and say nothing.

Those prosecutors who have handled these cases will tell you that they have seen amazing strength and bravery by young child victims having the courage to walk into that courtroom and confront their abuser in front of 12 random people (the jury) and the world. I believe that a large part of that strength comes from the child knowing that the prosecutor is fighting for him or her. Along with the child victim looking to the prosecutor for strength, the victim’s family, the community, and the jury are watching and judging every word and action of the prosecutor.

The weight these prosecutor bear in court is matched by the hard work and long hours needed out of court. They spend hours meeting with child victims, their families, witnesses, and law enforcement. Much of their days are spent discussing the most intimate details with kids who just met them. In some cases, the prosecutors have to look at picture after picture and video after video of child pornography.

It is a hard job that brings you face to face with the absolute worst of humanity. We all would rather live in a world where children are not victimized or where child pornography does not exist. But it happens, it exists, and it is much worse than you would ever want to imagine. If you handle these cases, you have probably shut your office door so others do not see you crying. If you handle these cases and have children of your own, you have gone home after a long day wanting to just hug your child and protect your child. You have probably heard your child say something similar to “Daddy, why are you just wanting to sit on the couch and hold me,” but you cannot tell them it is because you spent the entire day meeting with a child the same age discussing that child’s abuse or that you went to an autopsy of a child the same age. So you just tell them how much you love them.

Those doing this job continue to do it despite the fact that they could all easily go make two or three times as much money in a different legal job. But, to them, this is a career and a calling, not a job. It is not about the money, it is about doing what is right, day in and day out.

I say all of this to thank prosecutors everywhere, but also to call on those in law school, college, or even those younger to step up to the plate and fight for victims of child abuse. Our society needs lawyers coming out of law school that have the strength, the work ethic, and the drive to do this job. The children and families in our communities do not need someone virtue signaling on social media, they need someone to put the entire weight of what happened to them on their shoulders and go into court to fight for these victims.

We are bombarded daily by the news and social media of people being offended or “triggered” by the smallest of slights, by mean words, by perceived offensive jokes, or by political disagreements. I promise you, those things pale in comparison to what a prosecutor that handles child abuse cases sees and hears daily. Those of us that do this work know that no matter how hard it is, no matter how emotionally and mentally draining it is, it is the most rewarding work there is. We get to work with the best and brightest law enforcement, doctors, child advocates, and other amazing people. But, nothing compares to a simple, sincere “thank you” and a smile from a child who has been through so much.

So many today want to “fix” the world all at once with mere talk or posts on social media. I believe that a bigger impact is made by positively affecting one person’s life at a time. Prosecutors who handle child victim cases are the best example of that. Their positive impact on even one single child victim who has been through so much physical, mental, and emotional hurt will continue to make a difference in our society for years and years to come.

If you are wanting to make an enormous impact in our world, become a prosecutor and work towards handling cases with child victims. If you are in law school, or thinking of going to law school, reach out to your local DA’s office and meet with a prosecutor to learn more about the amazing work they do. I promise you it will be a tough job, but I also promise you that you will never find a more fulfilling career.

Randy McGinley

District Attorney

Alcovy Judicial Circuit

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