- Associated Press - Monday, March 2, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - The Georgia Supreme Court has granted a new trial to a couple serving life in prison for murder in the death of their newborn daughter. The justices unanimously agreed that they received ineffective legal counsel.

Albert and Ashley Debelbot had their convictions overturned Friday, the Ledger-Enquirer reported. Their daughter, McKenzy, was born in 2008 at Fort Benning’s Martin Army Community Hospital in Columbus.

The parents took the baby back to the hospital days after the birth when they discovered a lump on her head. She later died, and an autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined that the cause was blunt force trauma.

The Debelbot’s trial lawyers failed to call expert medical witnesses during the trial. Their new defense attorneys say experts would be able to show that the baby was born with a brain deformation.

Their appeal also noted that a trial prosecutor told the jury that “reasonable doubt” does not require the state to prove defendants guilty with 100% certainty.



“It does not mean to a mathematical certainty,” Assistant District Attorney Sadhana Dailey said. “Which means we don’t have to prove that 90%. You don’t have to be 90% sure. You don’t have to be 80% sure. You don’t have to be 51% sure.”

The high court said in its decision that the explanation was a “gross misstatement of the law,” and the failure of the Debelbot’s lawyers to object to that point proved the couple were denied effective counsel.

“We admonish lawyers not to confuse jurors by attempting to quantify a standard of proof that is not susceptible to quantification,” the court stated.

The case was expected to be sent back to Muscogee Superior Court. The Debelbots remain in prison.

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