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Robbery trial begins for murder suspect

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- A man facing the death penalty in the slaying of an Albany businessman is in the pre-trial phase of his trial on unrelated armed robbery charges.

Prosecutors charge that Jordan Harris killed Walter Phelps during an attempted robbery at Phelps' hardware store July 3. District Attorney Greg Edwards is seeking the death penalty in that case, which is one of at least three death-penalty cases his office is currently working on.

While Harris has yet to stand trial on those charges, jury selection started Tuesday in an unrelated armed robbery charge he faces. By 2 p.m., opening statements had started, court officials said.

Harris has been indicted, along with Larry Gatewood, Dominque Nelson and Ryan Richardson, on charges that they were involved in a series of armed robberies at Flash Food stores in 2009.

Gatewood, Nelson and Richardson have all been convicted, Chief Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier said.

Edwards and his prosecutors contend that Harris shot Phelps, a former Lee County commissioner, as he was opening up his hardware store on the 2500 block of North Slappey Boulevard on July 3. Phelps died a month later in an Albany-area hospital.