Judge denies ex-policeman’s requests for new trial | New
EATONTON, Ga. — Michael Seth Perrault, a disgraced police officer who once worked for the Eatonton Police Department, will not get a new trial for murder.
That’s the decision of Ocmulgee Superior Court Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Brenda H. Trammell following a hearing last week in Hancock County Superior Court, where attorneys for the defense requested a new trial.
The motion for a new trial was filed recently on Perrault’s behalf by Robert L. Sirianni Jr. and George W. Thomas of Brownstone Law, an appellate law firm. They did not represent Perrault at his murder trial.
After the hearing, Trammell denied Perrault’s request for a new trial.
“The motion was filed on the general ground that the trial court made one or more reversible errors,” Trammell said in its ruling.
Three of the points included:
- The verdict was contrary to the evidence and without supporting evidence.
- The verdict was against the law and the principles of justice.
- The court made errors of law justifying the granting of a new trial.
Sirianni, the lead defense attorney, cited the following grounds for requesting a new trial when he filed an amended motion on August 26.
Sirianni said the trial court erred in not changing the venue.
Additionally, he said cumulative errors dictated that Perrault was entitled to a new trial, including failing to preserve chain of custody of the firearm that was present at the scene, allowing the Putnam County Sheriff, Howard R. Sills, to remain in the courtroom during the trial. lawsuit, thus violating the rule of sequestration; referring to Sills as prosecutor; referring to the accused as a murderer; and ineffective legal assistance for their failure to call defense witnesses.
The new defense attorneys along with their client attended the hearing last week in Sparta via Zoom, while Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III and Sills joined Judge Trammell in person.
Perrault joined the hearing at Georgia Diagnostic Prison near Jackson, where he was taken following his murder conviction.
On the grounds that the verdict was contrary to the evidence and without supporting evidence, Trammell said that “there was more than enough evidence to convict the defendant in this way”.
The judge pointed out that while the medical examiner was of the opinion that the victim’s death was a suicide, other law enforcement officials testified to evidence that did not support such a conclusion.
Trammell cited the following reasons:
“The placement of the cartridge and the gun; additional blood evidence in another bathroom, bullet casings, blood spatter and body position; and the defendant’s actions on and before the date in question, to name a few,” Trammell said in its decision. “As noted in another circumstantial case, moreover, a detective testified that based on his 23 years of experience and his work between 50 and 75 suicides involving firearms, Gresham did not die by suicide .”
She cited a case from Georgia in this case.
The judge determined that Perrault’s lawyers’ argument was without merit.
“Based on its duty as the 13th juror, the court finds that the jury’s verdict is not contrary to the evidence or decidedly and strongly against the weight of the evidence,” Trammell said. “The court further finds that the principles of justice and fairness do not require a new trial. The court finds, as the 13th juror, that there is no reason to grant the requested new trial after a review of the entire case.
The judge also addressed the defense lawyers’ claim that the court erred in not changing the location of the murder trial.
“However, the defendant withdrew his motion to change venue before the trial of this matter, and this court, on February 16, 2022, issued a written order commemorating it,” Trammell said in its decision. “Furthermore, during the selection of the jury, in this case, there were not a large number of jurors who were even aware of the case, and no jurisdiction to request a change of venue could have been demonstrated.”
Trammell also addressed the claim that there was a failure to preserve the chain of custody of the firearm.
“However, the defendant, in this case, had no objection to the introduction of this evidence at trial, and no objection to chain of custody was made,” Trammell said. “Furthermore, this evidence was properly identified and presented at the trial of this matter.”
Trammell also addressed the defense attorneys’ motion regarding the court’s decision that allowed Sills to remain in the courtroom and not be sequestered like all the other witnesses who testified in the case.
“It is at the discretion of the trial court to allow the lead investigator/prosecutor to remain in the courtroom for the orderly presentation of evidence,” Trammell said.
Defense attorneys also disputed whether or not Sills should have been named as the prosecutor.
Trammell noted that Sills was listed as a prosecutor in the grand jury indictment against Perrault.
Trammell said defense attorneys did not object to the reference during the trial.
The judge also ruled against defense attorneys on two other points.
One of them involved calling Perrault a murderer. Trammell said the case law allows it.
Perrault’s new defense attorneys also argued that their client should be given a new trial based on ineffective counsel assistance and their failure to call defense witnesses.
“Although alleged in the pleadings, the defendant did not make any submissions or cite any details about the witnesses who were omitted or what they might have testified regarding the defendant or his defence” , Trammell said. “Therefore, the court finds this land abandoned.”
Trammell’s order was signed on September 2.