ALBANY, Ga. -- If a jury finds 20-year-old Dontravious Thomas guilty for fatally shooting Dougherty County Police Department Lt. Clifford Rouse, Thomas could forfeit his life in return.
"I always had the death penalty in the back of my mind," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards. "I got some phone calls and media attention, so I decided to announce that I will seek the death penalty in this case."
Although charges have not yet been officially filed against Thomas, Edwards anticipates that malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault of a police officer will top the list.
If a jury finds Thomas guilty of the murder charges, the decision to apply the death penalty or not will be made by the same 12 jurors.
Edwards said, "In Georgia, a capital case is the one time when a jury pronounces sentence, not a judge."
The options the jury will have if they find Thomas guilty are life with possibility of parole, life with no chance of parole or death by lethal injection.
In order to seek the death penalty, Edwards had to decide the crime met at least one of the legal criteria. In this case the crime meets several, Edwards said.
The murder was allegedly committed during the commission of a felony. Rouse was shot while investigating the December felony armed robbery of the Pitt Stop convenience store on the 3000 block of Sylvester Road.
Another aggravating circumstance was the killing of a police officer in the pursuit of his duties. And, said Edwards, the crime could be called an act of "wanton, vile or outrageous violence."
Edwards said, "It will be up to a jury to decide if it was wanton, vile or outrageous."
The charge of malice murder is applied because Thomas meant to kill when he fired at Rouse, Edwards said. Malice can be formed in an instant, "the blink of an eye," Edwards said.
The district attorney's office is already asking for the death penalty in the case of Allen Wade Robinson, a former Dougherty County jailer who is accused of the fatal November 2008 stabbing of Rashonda Dowell while she was in the parking lot of a supermarket.
Another death penalty case could be filed in the murder case against Jordan Harris, accused of the July 3 killing of businessman and former Lee County Commissioner Walter Phleps.