ALBANY, Ga. — A man appealing a Dougherty County court decision denying his claim that retrying him for murder would violate his constitutional right against double jeopardy is set to have his case heard by the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday, court documents show.
Tracy Lashawn Smith was indicted in September 2011, along with two co-defendants — Demarcus Dontravious Lewis and Calvin Brooks — for felony murder, aggravated assault and aggravated battery for the beating death of Jerome Walden.
On Dec. 20, 2011 the jury found Smith guilty of aggravated assault and aggravated battery, but the jury was hung on the felony murder charge and Dougherty Superior Judge Willie Lockette declared a mistrial on that count.
The state then announced its intention to retry Smith for felony murder. Prior to a retrial, however, Smith filed a plea based on double jeopardy grounds. The trial court denied Smith's "plea of former jeopardy," and Smith is now appealing to the state Supreme Court.
According to the state's case against him, on June 24, 2011, the Albany Police Department responded to an emergency call regarding a fight in progress in the alley of Poplar Street and Highland Avenue. Responding officers found Walden lying on the ground unresponsive with swollen eyes and blood flowing from his mouth.
Walden, 45, died later from his wounds. He was initially being cared for at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, and was later put into hospice care before succumbing to his injuries.
Lewis, Brooks and Smith are suspected of beating Walden with a board that had nails sticking out of it. The victim never regained consciousness.
The state's witnesses testified at trial that, earlier in the day, Walden had disrespected Smith, a drug dealer, regarding a drug debt. Smith had sold Walden $30 of crack cocaine but Walden hadn't paid him, witnesses said. Walden bested Smith in a fist fight over the debt, the state claimed, and Smith became incensed that a "client" had insulted him by engaging in a fight.
Smith reportedly returned later in the day with the two co-defendants and waited for Walden to come outside. When he did, a witness said she saw Smith and the others beating Walden before they fled the scene in a white pickup truck.
Smith's attorney argues the trial court erred in denying his plea of former jeopardy. The state argues the trial court did not err in denying Smith’s plea to bar a retrial, according to court documents.