Court awards new trial for Berrien County man

ATLANTA —The Georgia Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Berrien County man convicted of murder, saying that the lower court should’ve instructed jurors on Georgia’s self-defense law.

“Absent such an instruction, the jury was not provided ‘with the proper guidelines for determining guilt or innocence,’” the opinion reads.

John Woods was convicted of the October 2009 shooting death of Travis Sauls — a shooting that Woods contends was self-defense.

According to court documents, Woods told police “that while Sauls was washing his truck, Sauls said if anyone ever crossed him, he would kill the person. John said he feared for his life as Sauls began circling him, moving his hands and looking ‘bug eyed.’ John went into his house, got his gun and concealing it in a Tom’s Potato Chips bag, came back outside and shot Sauls in the back at least twice. John then wrapped the body in a blue plastic ‘kiddie pool,’ loaded it onto a trailer and took it to his father’s hunting property in Florida. There he burned the body and later scattered the body parts around the property.”

Before jury deliberations, Woods’ attorney issued a written request that the court instruct the jury about Georgia’s self defense law and a verdict of not-guilty by reason of insanity — arguing that Wood’s childhood problems with seizures had prompted doctors to remove a portion of his brain that could’ve made him believe that Sauls was a true threat to his life, court documents show.

In September 2011, a jury convicted him of murder, aggravated assault and various other charges. He was sentenced to life plus 10 years.