Sexual assault trial postponed waiting on evidence -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Sexual assault trial postponed waiting on evidence

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –The trial of an Albany man charged with sexually assaulting six people while posing as a Police Officer has been postponed.  The problem? A backlog at the GBI crime lab.

DNA evidence crucial to the trial is still not available.  Just another side effect to the state's budget troubles.

Phillip Conner's trial was scheduled to begin next week, but it had to be postponed while Prosecutors wait on DNA evidence from the GBI Crime Lab in Atlanta.

State budget cutbacks have closed the others South Georgia law enforcement relied on, and now Prosecutors are concerned that the volume of evidence the Atlanta lab has to handle could allow criminals to walk free.

27 year old Phillip Conner was arrested March 18th, and indicted on 50 counts of rape, aggravated assault, and kidnapping both men and women. Investigators say he posed as a Police Officer, picked up people off the streets, then used weapons to sexually assault them. Despite the seriousness of the crime, Prosecutors are still on hold.

 Edwards said "There was some additional information that we wanted to retrieve from the Crime Lab regarding some DNA testing."

State budget cuts have forced most of the evidence from South Georgia to the GBI Crime Lab in Atlanta, where the volume is overwhelming.  Edwards said "That's causing the bottleneck sometimes."

Legislators are now debating more budget cutbacks, and Prosecutors want to send the message that further cuts could hamstring the courts.

 Edwards said "We want all of our legislators to think about when decisions on budget cuts. Public safety, law enforcement, those are things that have to be touched last, if at all."

Edwards said he is seeing more defense attorney's demanding speedy trial, forcing them to be tried within months of indictment. And Prosecutors say if they don't have the evidence, that could result in suspects walking free.

 Edwards said "If we are going to honor the demand for trial, we have to be ready to go to trial. If we don't, then by operational law the person would walk away from the case."

And that would be a high price to pay in state budget cutbacks.

That is not the case with Phillip Conner's trial. His defense attorney's agreed to the postponement, and will likely be held in March.

The D.A. Wants this case tried as soon as possible because of the number of victims in this case.

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