New laws designed to help crime victims - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New laws designed to help crime victims

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Albany- When Marvin Gulley murdered Mary Garner in 1994, he turned her daughter into a victim for life.

"I will live with this because I was the victim," said Curly Dell Swan, Garner's daughter.

Swan speaks out for victims now. That's why she was in Atlanta Tuesday to see the Governor sign the Criminal Justice Act. One of the most important changes gives the prosecution and defense the same number of jury strikes.

"It was an overwhelming advantage for the defense to have more strikes, twice the number that the state had," said Greg Edwards, Chief Assistant in the Dougherty County District Attorney's office.

But defense attorney Pete Donaldson says the reason for unequal strikes was because jurors often believe if someone's accused of a crime, they must be guilty.

"The attitude being that this person wouldn't be accused if he hadn't done something wrong," Donaldson said. "And the unbalanced strikes have always been there for the purpose of addressing that."

The bill will also give prosecutors the last word in a trial.

"In all the other jurisdictions, except Georgia and Florida, where the state had the burden, the state didn't necessarily get the final argument during trial," Edwards said.

Donaldson says that part of the bill should follow the same rules as other states and the federal government, where the prosecution's last word has to center on a rebuttal.

"But as it is now, the government, the state gets the last word and can say what they jolly well please without regard to what has been previously argued by the defense."

But prosecutors and victims are just glad the changes are finally being made. "It may not help me, but it will help somebody else in the future," Swan said.

Help someone else who has become a victim for life.

posted by brannon.stewart@walb.com