Directed Verdict of Acquittal in Murder Case

We just received this email from Stephen Bright, Director of the Southern Center for Human rights, about a case that Chris Adams, a lawyer with the Center, just won. Chris is an outstanding lawyer, and we want to share his victory.

(from Stephen's email):

"About a year ago, we got a letter from a Albert Joe Ryans who had been in jail in Phoenix City, Alabama for two years facing capital murder charges and had seen his court-appointed lawyer only once for a few minutes. I asked Chris Adams to speak with him. When Chris got to the jail, Ryans was so glad that someone had come to see him that he broke down in tears. Chris took the case, tried to get the state to dismiss the charges, and finally persuaded the prosecutor not to seek the death penalty. This week, Ryans broke down again when the judge directed a verdict of acquittal. This is another great victory for Chris. newspaper story below. - steve bright"

Columbus, Ga., Ledger Inquirer, Dec. 06, 2002
Judge acquits man of murder - Greene rules state failed to provide enough evidence against Albert Joe Ryans

"The murder trial of Albert Joe Ryans ended abruptly Wednesday when Russell County Circuit Court Judge George Greene ordered a directed verdict of acquittal for lack of evidence linking him to the 1998 slaying of a Phenix City car wash attendant.

Ryans, 42, sobbed in relief and embraced defense attorney Chris Adams of Atlanta as relatives of the murder victim gasped and cried out in protest when Greene made his ruling.

Moments after District Attorney Kenneth Davis rested the state's case, Greene ruled that the prosecution's evidence failed to produce an overt act linking Ryans to the slaying committed by Johnnie Lee James, 42, who stabbed 79-year-old Edward Abernathy a dozen times during a Dec. 10, 1998 robbery at the Goo Goo Car Wash on Seale Road.

The state's case also presented no evidence that Ryans was aware of the robbery planned by James and codefendant Robin Diggins, 31, who gave James the knife used in the slaying, Greene said. The state's case showed Ryans was only told of the robbery plan by Diggins after James had left their car to go to the car wash, and that Ryans had been at a pay phone outside the car when Diggins and James talked of the robbery, the judge said.

Members of the Abernathy family erupted in angry tears and loud protests upon hearing the decision. Although Ryans is likely to soon be a free man, Adams and defense co-counsel Joel Collins said he will first be returned to a south Alabama prison, where he has spent most of the last four years serving time for revocation of a prior conviction for a credit card fraud charge. Adams said Ryans has never been involved in violent offenses."

We add our congrats to Chris and Joel, Mr. Ryans and the Center.

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