COFFEE CO., GA (WALB) - A man, already serving a life sentence in prison, pleaded guilty to a 1996 murder on Wednesday.
According to Assistant District Attorney Ian Sansot, Corey Smith was convicted in 1997 for the death of Bill Ray Browning. But he was granted a new trial after the court reporter's house burned down, taking all transcripts and recordings of the trial with it.
Because of a lack of transcripts, Smith was granted a new trial in December of 2013, which he didn't have until October of 2015.
However, halfway through the trial, it was discovered that Smith's then-attorney had been suspended from the practice of law for failure to pay bar dues and complete required Continuing Legal Education hours.
The judge was then forced to declare a mistrial.
Smith obtained new counsel and the case has been pending ever since.
"Sometimes circumstances require reopening long-closed cases," said District Attorney George Barnhill. "The problem is when witnesses are no longer available. But here, the essential witnesses were still willing and able to testify and we were able to, hopefully, bring some finality to Mr. Browning's family. No matter the age of the case, our office endeavors to do justice on behalf of victims."
According to Sansot, on June 26, 1996, Smith and three others were driving on US-441 north of Douglas early in the morning.
The four men then flagged down Browning, who they mistakenly believed had previously hit their vehicle.
Browning was driving a gray Dodge truck that looked similar to the vehicle the four were looking for.
After both vehicles were stopped, Smith began shooting at Browning who began to speed up in an attempt to get away but was killed within moments.
Smith admitted to a GBI agent that he fired a 9mm handgun at Browning.
The gun was found and it was determined that it matched the bullet that shot Browning in the head.
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