Attorneys argue letter, spirit of law in bail case

ALBANY -- Postponing a decision for 30 days, Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette said attorney arguments in a Dougherty County case he heard posed more questions about Georgia law than answers.

The issue under Lockette's consideration centers on whether a Probate Court can hear the right of a Dougherty County Jail prisoner to file for habeas corpus. According to the website legal-dictionary.the freedictionary.com the term means "justify the prisoner's detention."

If the court can hear the habeas corpus petition, can it then grant bail, if a Superior Court has denied bail in the case?

Jim Finkelstein filed with Probate Court to obtain bail for his client Vincent Wadley after a Superior Court judge had denied bail on July 21. Thursday, Lockette held an emergency hearing on a District Attorney's Office petition to prohibit the hearing today in Probate Court.

Assistant District Attorney Steve Lee argued that once a prisoner, in this case Wadley, was denied bail by Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss, he can be legally imprisoned before trial. It is the "exclusive jurisdiction" of superior court, he said.

Finkelstein argued that Goss' ruling denying bail was an illegal action detaining a defendant who is innocent until proven guilty.

"They filed this petition in a desperate attempt to keep an innocent man in jail," Finkelstein said.

Although he is considered innocent until proven guilty, Wadley had been found guilty in May, 2010, of the same charge that he is now facing again. That trial was thrown out due to opinionated remarks made by Judge Denise Marshall during the trial while the jury was in the courtroom.

A new trial was ordered and Finkelstein asked for a bail ruling from Goss for Wadley. Wadley had been out on $10,000 bond during the first trail.

Goss, according to court papers, found that circumstances such as the initial guilty verdict, even though a new trial was ordered, made Wadley a flight risk. He denied bail.

Finkelstein's attempt to have a habeas corpus decision leading to bail from Probate Court could have far reaching effects on the judicial system, Lockette said.

Lockette said, "Does the law give Probate Court the authority to interfere with, regulate or reverse a Superior Court decision? That has already been decided by a judge who applied legal standards?"

"Does it do violence to the judicial hierarchy? This is not about this particular case but the whole fabric of the court system in the State of Georgia."