Barnes: Jury stacked against former Cobb EMC CEO
by Nikki Wiley
February 04, 2014 12:17 AM | 4498 views | 7 7 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Attorney Roy Barnes drives home his point Monday to the Georgia Supreme Court, in defense of former Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown, arguing that Brown’s rights were violated because the grand jury that indicted him contained several EMC members.
Marietta Attorney Roy Barnes drives home his point Monday to the Georgia Supreme Court, in defense of former Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown, arguing that Brown’s rights were violated because the grand jury that indicted him contained several EMC members.
slideshow
ATLANTA — Former Gov. Roy Barnes told the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday the former CEO of Cobb Electric Membership Corp. had his rights violated when a grand jury that included utility customers indicted him in 2011.

Dwight Brown was indicted on more than 30 counts in July 2011 that accused him of stealing millions of dollars from the EMC’s member customers. Charges include theft by taking, conspiracy and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations or RICO Act, among other criminal charges.

Brown has not yet gone to trial and did not appear in court on Monday when his attorney, Barnes, told the state’s highest court the indictment should be overturned for a second time.

The first round of indictments against Brown was dropped by Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy in March 2011 because he said the charges weren’t delivered in open court.

Barnes argued that alleged victims with interest in the outcome of Brown’s case were improperly allowed to sit on the grand jury that decided Brown should be charged.

“In fact, in this case, the presiding member of the grand jury, the foreperson, was such a person who was disqualified,” Barnes said.

Separate from the criminal case brought against Brown is a civil class-action lawsuit alleging $286 million that should have been returned to members was kept by the utility. The EMC has offered to settle the civil case by paying $98 million, about one-third of the amount of money originally involved in the lawsuit.

Barnes said some grand jurors stood to gain from Brown’s downfall.

“These same people who sat on this grand jury and indicted this defendant had also … filed a class action and subsequent to this case, as a matter of public knowledge, they have received money,” Barnes said.

Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster signed a preliminary order in October but is scheduled to hold a final approval hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Defense shifts responsibility to prosecution

Barnes argues the potential conflict of interest was brought to the attention of prosecutors but ignored.

“Out of an abundance of caution, it was brought to the district attorney’s attention not once, not twice, but three times that you were seeking to indict a defendant with persons that had direct, inherent interest in the outcome of the case,” Barnes said.

Though attorneys for Brown filed an official motion in court and never had a hearing about their concerns, Barnes says prosecutors had a responsibility to ensure Brown’s rights were honored after a potential problem was presented.

“We hold, rightly so, prosecutors to an exalted position in our society, but they are not mere advocates as your honor knows,” Brown told the court. “They have an extra duty, a duty to see that justice is done and in fairness.”

Prosecutor John Floyd said of the 20-member grand jury that delivered a unanimous indictment, 16 jurors were unchallenged.

“Sixteen is an entire grand jury. No challenge to any of them. They voted unanimously. Only 12 were necessary. That’s where we sit,” said Floyd, special assistant district attorney.

Floyd also argued defendants are not afforded a right to an impartial grand jury. Objectivity is left to the trial jury, Floyd said.

Georgia Supreme Court justices have two court terms, fewer than six months, to issue an opinion.

Justice draws distinction between juries

Associate Justice David Nahmias told Barnes other courts have found there is no right to have an indictment returned by an unbiased grand jury.

“The problem I have is grand juries are treated very differently than juries,” Nahmias said in court on Monday. “Prosecutors can, although they probably shouldn’t, prosecutors can bring evidence they know to be unconstitutionally obtained. They can bring witnesses they know to have committed perjury to the grand jury, and the remedy for that, you cannot correct that by re-indictment. That is not the remedy.”

Nahmias said trial juries, unlike grand juries, must be impartial.

Floyd also pointed to Brown’s first indictment, which was eventually tossed out, that alleged the same charges and was handed down by a grand jury Brown’s attorneys did not challenge.

“It’s not like we made it up all of a sudden,” Floyd said.

Still, Barnes maintained grand juries are meant to be part of a system of checks and balances on prosecutors.

“What district attorney would put a victim on the grand jury or not have a hearing on it?” Barnes asked the court. “That would be like somebody stealing my truck and I see them steal it, and I serve on the grand jury and say, ‘You know he stole my truck.’”

Comments
(7)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Kennesaw Resident
|
February 05, 2014
Well, now we know what our former governor thinks of the citizens of Cobb County. I think much more highly. I know that they can be fair and objective in their assessment of this criminal.
anonymous
|
February 05, 2014
RE: Jury Stacked against Brown.

Uuuh...GRAND juries are ALWAYS STACKED AGAINST the accused. Brown is being treated no different than any other defendant.

The GRAND jury is what prosecutors use so that they can avoid direct responsibility for making a decision to pursue/not pursue a case.

Get em
|
February 04, 2014
If by some legal technicality this indictment is overturned by the GA Supreme Court, I will demand that the Cobb DA empanel another grand jury of GA Power & City of Marietta electric company customers, so that Grand Jury can investigate the evidence. I would bet my house, that Grand Jury will bring an indictment also.
Revoke Bail
|
February 04, 2014
... and maybe Barnes will stop his delay tactics.
Just Wait
|
February 04, 2014
Brown certainly stacked the odds against the EMC customers, why shouldn't the jury be stacked against him?
West Cobbian
|
February 04, 2014
Are there any ethical and honest lawyers? Barnes certainly fails the ethics test in using these asinine stunts to try to evade justice for his neighboring Cobb EMC owners. Barnes is part of the 99% of the legal profession that gives the other 1% a bad name.
Cobb EMC Member
|
February 04, 2014
What a mockery of he legal system - Ole Roy fabricated one defense and now defending the technical issues incorrectly instead of he facts of the crimes committed by Mr. Brown and the EMC Board.

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides