Constitutional Law

Ga. Judge Dismisses 2003 Child-Murder Case Over Speedy Trial Violations

A Georgia judge on Wednesday dismissed all charges against a Savannah man accused of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter in 2003 because of a series of delays that violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Although expressing concern that Bobby Lavon Bucker could potentially escape justice for a very serious crime, if he is guilty, Judge Penny Haas Freesemann cited a series of delays that have made it more and more difficult for him to defend himself, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Bucker maintains his innocence.

From the outset, although he was jailed immediately after the slaying of Ashleigh Moore and sent to prison for a parole violation in a prior child molestation case, Bucker faced a more than four-year delay before he was charged. A total of 10 trial dates have been set and postponed, the article recounts.

A decision by prosecutors last year, more than three years after Bucker was charged, to pursue the case as a capital murder required extensive reconfiguration of his defense team and some 100 new motions. Then the prosecutors changed their mind, saying that they could seek a life term without parole even without pursuing a capital trial.

“The court simply cannot ignore that this considerable delay, which occurred late in an already significantly delayed case, was apparently altogether unnecessary,” Freesemann wrote.

Both the district attorney and Bucker’s current counsel had no immediate comment. However, his former lawyer, Michael Schiavone, applauded the ruling, calling the government’s decision to pursue a death-penalty case a “ploy” to avoid a looming trial that was only days away.

“From day one, he has been adamant that he was not responsible for this girl’s death,” Schiavone said of Bucker.

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