The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand the Georgia Supreme Court's decision on Jamie Ryan Weis, who has been in jail facing the death penalty in Pike County for more than four years while the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council struggles to pay for attorneys to handle his case.
Weis, accused of the 2006 robbery-murder of Catherine King, had asked the U.S. justices to review a March decision by the Georgia high court that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had not been violated.
Weis' case has been delayed because his appointed attorneys, hired by the Standards Council in 2006, were involuntarily dismissed by the trial judge in 2007 after complaining about not being paid. They were replaced by state-salaried lawyers, then re-appointed by a visiting judge in 2009 and continue to work without having been fully compensated.
In a 4-3 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that Weis was partly to blame for his dilemma because, during the period he was represented by the circuit public defender and an assistant, he did not cooperate and insisted on having his original counsel reappointed.
"We are disappointed, but we knew that the court seldom takes a case prior to trial," said Southern Center for Human Rights President and senior counsel Stephen B. Bright, who filed Weis' petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A denial of certiorari is not a ruling on the merits, he added.
"Weis can come back to the court on direct appeal after conviction, and he can petition the federal courts for habeas corpus relief," Bright said. "I am confident that the Supreme Court or some other reviewing court will recognize the constitutional violation and set aside any conviction that might be obtained. "
"The state believes a denial of cert was appropriate in this case," said Russ Willard, spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker. "We are pleased with this decision."