First hearing held in death penalty case

Photo by Special photo

Photo by Special photo

ALBANY, Ga. -- In an appearance before Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss, accused murderer Dontravious Raynard Thomas heard Goss read the charges against him in the death-penalty case Tuesday.

Thomas is accused of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault of a police officer, armed robbery and other crimes such as possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with the robbery of a convenience store and the killing of Dougherty County Police Lt. Clifford Rouse.

Asked by Goss if he understood the charges, Thomas said, "Yeah."

The court appearance allowed Goss to go over the rules and procedures of a death-penalty case and possible appeal with defense and prosecuting attorneys. It did not cover Thomas' plea to the charges. That would come at a later date during the arraignment stage of the process.

"The judge also reads into the record the appeal process required by law in death penalty cases," said Heather Lanier, chief assistant district attorney with the Dougherty Judicial Circuit. "This is to ensure everyone receives a fair trial, the defendant and the state."

The prosecution in the case -- Lanier, District Attorney Greg Edwards and Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon -- listed many reasons for seeking the death penalty.

Lanier said circumstances surrounding the alleged murder required the death penalty. She said the alleged murder was an outrageously violent, inhuman, depraved attempt to avoid a lawful arrest for a crime.

The defense team -- Jerry Word and Burt Baker from the Office of Georgia Capital Defense -- said it was ready to proceed with Thomas' defense.

Thomas has a criminal history going back to 2009, according to court records. In August of that year, he was sentenced to five years probation on felony burglary charges.

About a year into his probation, police arrested Thomas for violating his probation. Another probation violation followed, and Thomas was out of jail on probation when he allegedly shot Rouse with a 9mm Glock handgun.