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Six years after his murder conviction for beating and strangling his wife, former Delta Air Lines engineer Barry S. Slakman is back in court, seeking a retrial. During a motions hearing last week Slakman’s lawyer, J.M. Raffauf of Decatur, Ga., asked Fulton Superior Court Judge Cynthia D. Wright to grant a series of motions. They included requests to void his sentence; for a speedy trial; and for disclosure of the role the victim’s father played in assisting the investigation of the case. Slakman is charged with cracking Shana Glass Slakman’s skull and strangling her in the bathtub of the couple’s Sandy Springs, Ga., home on the morning of July 6, 1993. A week before, Shana Slakman had told her husband she was seeking a divorce. A jury convicted Slakman of murder in May 1994. He also was convicted of aggravated assault for choking Fulton Police Lt. Denny Hendrix and stabbing him in the hand with a pen during an interrogation. However, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned Slakman’s conviction in July 2000, ruling that trial Judge Josephine Holmes Cook erred in allowing a court reporter to testify that she had heard Slakman admit guilt. Slakman became hysterical on the stand during the 1994 trial, when prosecutor Joseph F. Burford showed him photos of his wife’s bloody body. Cook sent the jury from the courtroom, and directed deputies to remove Slakman. As they were doing so, the court reporter testified that Slakman wailed, “How could I do that to her?” Slakman’s lawyer at the time, Jeffrey B. Bogart, moved for a mistrial, but was denied. When cross-examination resumed, Slakman testified that he had not confessed, but was simply wondering aloud how “they” could have done such a thing. Later in the trial the court reporter testified to what she heard on the audiotape she was making of the trial. Allowing that testimony, the state supreme court ruled in a 4-3 decision, was reversible error. Presiding Justice Norman S. Fletcher wrote that the jury would likely give great weight to the court reporter’s testimony, and that the transcript would reflect what she thought she had heard — a view she reinforced on the stand. Slakman v. State, 272 Ga., 662; 533 S.E. 2nd 383. The court also held that Cook erred by allowing testimony from Slakman’s first wife that he had tried to strangle her in the early 1970s after she told him she wanted a divorce. Fletcher wrote that the incident was too old to include as a similar transaction. The court reporter and two jurors from the first trial may be witnesses in round two of the case, which could begin in spring or early summer. The parties are negotiating a draft scheduling order on the suggestion of Judge Wright. “I do very much want to move this trial forward in as timely a fashion as possible,” Wright said. The court ruled against many of Slakman’s motions last Thursday, including one to correct the indictment and void the sentence on the aggravated assault conviction. Raffauf argued that the indictment for the aggravated assault conviction actually describes a misdemeanor, and that therefore his client’s 20-year sentence is inappropriate. The issue wasn’t raised on appeal, Raffauf said, but he added that the law allows him to raise the issue at any time. Senior Assistant District Attorney Sheila Ross Finley warned the judge that Raffauf actually was trying to challenge the sufficiency of the indictment, which the supreme court had already ruled was valid. The defense might not like the indictment, she said, but “They’re stuck with it.” “They can call it whatever they want to call it,” she said. “What they’re really doing is challenging the sufficiency of the indictment.” Granting the motion would be a disaster as policy, Finley said, because it would encourage defendants to circumvent making a timely challenge to the indictment. Slakman, she noted, had waited until long after his conviction to raise the issue. “Why challenge the sufficiency of the indictment when you can just lie in wait for the jury’s verdict and raise it later?” In his response Raffauf protested that that this was “not a question of a void indictment. The problem is that the indictment sets out a misdemeanor and not a felony.” Wright denied the motion. “I understand what the defense is asking the court to do, but I decline to do so,” she said. Raffauf also filed a motion to disclose the activities of the victim’s father, Sherwin Glass. Glass, he said, collected evidence in the case, which he then turned over to the state. Though he had testified about his activities during the first trial, Raffauf said he did not believe Glass had made a full accounting of his activities. “We’re entitled to know what the man did to aid in the prosecution of this case,” he said. Finley responded that the state never hired Glass to do anything, and that he never undertook any action as an agent of the prosecution. “He simply assisted the police as any father would,” she said. Finley said that all the information the state had about Glass’s activities was in the investigation files, which the prosecution has made available to the defense. “If they want to know more they can simply ask him,” she said. “There’s no need to involve us.” Wright said she would reserve her ruling until she had a chance to review the transcript from the first trial, and decide whether Glass had disclosed all he knew. Wright also denied Slakman’s motion for a speedy trial. Raffauf withdrew a motion to dismiss the charges based on the failure of the state to try Slakman in a timely manner. Raffauf says he will refile that motion later.

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