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Heinze to seek new trial
The defense lawyer for Guy Heinze Jr., convicted Friday in the mass murders of eight people, said Monday he expects to seek a new trial within a month after Heinze is sentenced.

"I respect the jury's verdict, but I don't agree with it," said Newell Hamilton of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defenders.

Heinze was found guilty on eight counts of murder and one of attempted murder, in addition to several lesser drug-related charges, after a nearly two-week jury trial in Glynn County Superior Court.

He was convicted of killing his father, Guy Heinze Sr., 46, his father's friend, Russell Toler Sr., 44, and Toler's children - Michael Toler, 19, Chrissy Toler, 22, Russell Toler Jr., 20, and Michelle Toler, 15 - Aug. 29, 2009, in a trailer he shared with them at New Hope Plantation mobile home park. He was also convicted of killing family friends Brenda Falagan, 48, and Joseph West, 30, and of attempting to kill Chrissy Toler's then-preschool son, Byron Jimmerson, all of whom also lived in the single-wide trailer.

Heinze originally faced the death penalty, but that possibility was dropped in a last-minute deal between defense lawyers and prosecutors during jury deliberations. Defense lawyers agreed to a motion by prosecutors to have Judge Stephen Scarlett dismiss a juror who a Glynn County Sheriff's deputy said had been inappropriately discussing the case while evidence was still being presented. The publicly unidentified juror had said he would be unable to find Heinze guilty, an indication he had made up his mind before he had heard all of the evidence.

Jurors deliberated three days, and returned a guilty verdict after the juror was replaced with an alternate.

Heinze now faces a sentence of life in prison, either without parole or with the possibility of parole. He will be sentenced after lawyers discuss scheduling. An appeal or a motion for a new trial should be filed within 30 days after sentencing, Hamilton said.

He said he expects Heinze to ask for an appeal, because the prosecution's case was not strong enough for a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. "I don't think the state met its burden (of proof). I don't think the evidence was sufficient," Hamilton said.

The conviction has not erased his belief that police arrested the wrong person, and that a killer is still at large.

That belief parallels the case Hamilton developed during the trial, in which he attempted to discredit nearly every aspect of the Glynn County Police Department's investigation.

Prosecutors admitted during opening statements that their case was built largely on circumstantial evidence. They convinced jurors of his guilt by relying on blood from victims on his clothes and his handprints in their blood on items found inside the trailer.

Hamilton said he hopes that if a new trial is granted, police will consider looking further into the possibility of other suspects in the case, and at what he said is the unlikelihood that one person killed all eight victims.

"I would encourage Glynn County to keep an open mind that they may be incorrect in their theory that Guy (Heinze) did this," Hamilton said.

* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at mhall@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.



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