Supreme Court grants Lee Co. murderer new trial

Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 at 10:25 AM EDT
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(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - A man convicted of one of the most brutal murders in Lee County history has been granted a new trial, because he says the state didn't give him a transcript of his Leesburg trial in 2009. The Supreme Court of Georgia issued the ruling Monday.

In 2011, a fire at the court reporter's house destroyed the tapes and documents from which the verbatim transcript was to have been prepared.  Johnson was given a recreated transcript, which the high court said was not sufficient.

Craig Johnson's attorney argued that by failing to meet its burden to provide a trial transcript that is true and correct, the State has deprived Johnson of his right to appeal, entitling him to a new trial.

Nicole Judge, a 23-year-old mother of three, was slashed and stabbed 36 times in her home in February 2008. The man prosecutors called her lover, Craig Johnson, 22, was convicted of killing her. The jury reached a verdict after only 70 minutes.

The victim was curled up in the fetal position when police found her inside her duplex on Winding Way.

Nicole Judge's one-year-old child spent the night with her mother's body. That, however, was not included as part of the evidence. Jurors weren't told about the child because Johnson had not been indicted on child cruelty charges.

Prosecutors painted a picture of a man desperate to silence his lover - desperate to prevent her from telling his wife about their affair.

Her threat to expose their relationship was the motive for the brutal killing, prosecutors say.

The judge immediately sentenced Craig Johnson to life in prison plus two years.  He is possibly eligible for parole in 30 years.

He was convicted on all counts:

  • Malice Murder
  • Felony Murder
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Aggravated Battery
  • Financial Card Transaction Theft

Johnson's attorney is Kevin Kwashnak. Attorneys for the state are: Plez Hardin, District Attorney, Lewis Lamb, Chief Asst. D.A., Christopher Carr, Attorney General, Beth Burton, Dep. A.G., Paula Smith, Sr. Asst. A.G., Michael Oldham, Asst. A.G.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved. 

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