The team of lawyers representing Stephen McDaniel-- the man accused of killing and dismembering Mercer Law graduate Lauren Giddings-- are challenging the District Attorney's intent to seek the death penalty.
DA Greg Winters filed his notice of intent to seek the death penalty almost a year ago on the grounds that Giddings' murder was "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind."
In an admittedly unusual move, one of McDaniel's defense attorneys Frank Hogue filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the DA's notice. After about four months of going through the evidence, Hogue says he feels he has grounds to ask for a dismissal because, he argues, all the evidence against McDaniel is circumstantial.
"Go ahead and try him for murder," he said, "I can't quibble with that if they think they have enough evidence to convict him for that, go for it. But it's not a strong enough case to also add the death penalty to it."
The motion was one of 31 filed Friday, what Hogue calls "the first wave"-- he anticipates filing about 30 more in coming weeks. However, many of the motions filed Friday deal with how evidence was gathered during the investigation and what should be admitted during trial.
In several of the motions, Hogue says some searches were carried out without a warrant. Therefore, he argues, evidence obtained as a result should not be admissible in court.
One motion argues any evidence or testimony related to cadaver dogs should be excluded because "it involves a procedure or technique that has not reached a scientific stage of verifiable certainty."
He also challenges the admissibility of the testimony of Thaddeus Money, a former roommate of McDaniel's.
"The details he gives, that he says Stephen used to say would be the perfect murder, don't match what we know about this case except for the dismembering part," said Hogue. "There's several other details that don't match, that are different. And under case law that we cite in the motion, you can only introduce some of these out-of-court statements about how they would commit a crime if the crime matches what they said they'd do."
The rest of the motions, Hogue says, are standard legal arguments you could make in any death penalty case. For instance, he plans to challenge a new state-wide system of jury selection, the same challenge made in the capital murder case of Damon Jolly, who pled guilty to killing a Bibb county deputy in 2006.
There are several more similar motions coming down the pipeline in the next few weeks, said Hogue. He says the trial is still months away.