ATLANTA — The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously upheld death sentences for Lawrence Rice who was convicted in 2008 of killing Connie Mincher and her teenage son, Ethan, in their east Cobb home in April 2003.
In the opinion, written by Justice Robert Benham and released Monday, the high court has rejected each of the 10 errors alleged by Rice’s attorneys and finds that “the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find Rice guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all counts.”
Connie and Ethan Mincher were found dead in their home by 12-year-old Marlee Mincher on April 17, 2003.
The family’s next-door neighbor told police she had seen Mrs. Mincher arrive home at around 2 p.m. About 20-30 minutes later she saw a champagne or gold colored car parked in the Mincher’s driveway. She said a man, later identified as Lawrence Rice of Tucker, got out of the vehicle and removed what appeared to be a tool box from the back. He then went into the house. Twenty minutes later, she saw Ethan, a freshman at Pope High School, arrive home and go inside. Twenty minutes after that, she watched Rice quickly go down the stairs and drive away in his car. Other witnesses had seen Rice and his older model gold Mercedes in the neighborhood the weeks before the murders.
Trevor Mincher, the husband and father of the victims, told detectives he had a history with the owner of the Mercedes. Trevor Mincher died of cancer in 2005, before Rice’s trial.
In 1990, Mincher’s company, Videotape Associates, had hired Rice to work as a maintenance engineer. Mincher said that while working there, Rice drove a gold Mercedes. He said that after less than six months on the job, Rice resigned after learning that another employee was earning a higher salary. Rice subsequently wrote letters to Mincher and others, saying Mincher had “blackballed” him and thwarted his efforts to find another job in the video industry. Eventually, Rice lost his home and was living in his car. Evidence at trial showed Rice had called Mincher at home numerous times, mostly around holidays. Mincher said he considered Rice unpredictable and dangerous. Mrs. Mincher once answered the phone and told Rice to stop harassing them. Mincher also told police he’d once received a Christmas card from Rice depicting an angel with a blackened eye and blood dripping from its wings. The card said the “curse of Akbar” would be on the Mincher family.
After a month-long trial before Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary E. Staley, a Cobb jury convicted Rice of murder and burglary and he was given two death sentences plus a 20-year prison sentence for burglary.
Rice appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, arguing that errors were made regarding his competence to stand trial, during jury selection, during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial, during the sentencing phase of the trial, and regarding the issues he raised in his motion requesting a new trial.
In today’s 47-page opinion, the high court addresses each of his arguments, finding no reversible errors.
The high court concludes “that the sentences of death in this case were not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor.
“Upon our review of the record, we conclude that the evidence at Rice’s trial was sufficient to support the statutory aggravating circumstances found as to both murders.” Georgia law requires that at least one of 11 aggravating circumstances accompany a murder to impose the death penalty.
Finally, “[c]onsidering both the murders in this case and Rice as a defendant, we find that the death sentences imposed were not disproportionate punishment within the meaning of Georgia law.”
Rice, now 63, is incarcerated at the state’s diagnostic and classification prison in Jackson.