Albany woman convicted of murdering ex-husband

ALBANY, Ga. -- A jury spent about 90 minutes in deliberation and then found an Albany woman guilty of felony murder, two aggravated assault charges and possession of a gun during the commission of a felony, a court official said.

Marlina Von Hamilton, 33 when she shot her former husband Christopher Donaldson, 32, in October 2010, remains out on bail, said District Attorney Greg Edwards. She will probably be sentenced on April 15.

"She could get life plus 25 years," Edwards said. "It will be up to the judge."

Johnnie Graham, Von Hamilton's attorney, built a case based on her client's contention that she had endured rape and several beatings from Donaldson and acted in self-defense.

While he said he's on the side of domestic abuse victims, Edwards said this case exemplified what a domestic violence victim should not do -- meet violence with violence.

"You cannot take the law into your own hands if you are a victim. She (Von Hamilton) did not seek out the resources available to her, the police, restraining orders or her own family and friends," Edwards said. "We cannot help domestic abuse victims if they do not ask us for help."

Edwards lined up forensic and circumstantial evidence in his case that he said showed Von Hamilton acted out of malice aforethought, not in self-defense.

Edwards said that Von Hamilton borrowed a 9mm handgun three days before the homicide, kept it under her sofa and admitted it was there so she could at least scare Donaldson.

When Donaldson sat on the sofa, Von Hamilton sat on the floor, reached under the sofa, pulled the gun and shot Donaldson in the groin, injuring he penis, Edwards said.

The couple stood up, struggled and Edwards said Von Hamilton fired the fatal shot into Donaldson's chest.

Both attorneys in the trial stated that the testimony from witnesses was contradictory and perhaps unreliable. Prosecution witnesses had no recollection of Von Hamilton having been bruised from beatings, while defense witnesses did recall bruising.

Though she said she was in a physically abusive relationship with Donaldson that stretched back to 2001, Von Hamilton did not report the violence until 2010, Edwards said.

To ensure there was no reasonable doubt, Edwards advised the jury to "cling to the things of which there is no doubt."

Edwards listed:

-- Von Hamilton admitted shooting Donaldson twice;

-- She borrowed the gun three days before the shooting;

-- After years of supposed abuse she got a gun and Donaldson is dead;

-- She had the safety off, the gun ready to fire;

-- She hid the gun and a knife under the sofa;

-- Her admitted intention was to at least "scare" Donaldson;

-- She chose not to go to the police about Donaldson's abuse, tell his probation officer about it or move to shelter for battered women.

There are rules in a society, Edwards said. "Battered persons syndrome is not a license to kill," he said. "The direction she chose, a gun and a knife, resulted in Christopher Donaldson's death."