Hearing held for possible new trial for Sam ParkerSam Parker was back in court on Thursday before Chief Judge Jon Wood in Walker County Superior Court. Parker, a former LaFayette police officer convicted of killing his wife, Theresa, was granted a motion for a new trial hearing.
LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- Before a judge and a few spectators in a Walker County courtroom, the attorney of convicted murderer Sam Parker argued that his client was prosecuted with evidence proven to be wrong when the body of Parker's estranged wife was found.
Parker, a former LaFayette police officer, gained national attention after his dispatcher wife, Theresa, went missing in 2007. He was convicted of murder in 2009, about a year before the remains of his wife's body were found in a wooded area in Chattooga County.
In a hearing to determine whether Sam Parker gets a new trial, attorney David Dunn argued that the state's "only direct evidence in the case" was a statement made by former police officer Ben Chaffin, who testified that Sam Parker said he had shot his wife in the head.
But that testimony conflicts with the findings, he said.
Theresa Parker's bones were found in September 2010 behind a cornfield. Her skull was intact and didn't show signs of being shot, evidence shows.
"We have evidence in the case that flatly contradicts the state," Dunn told the judge.
But Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson -- who led the prosecution in Sam Parker's original trial -- argued the state never said it knew how Sam Parker killed his wife and, in court, prosecutors told the jury she could have been shot or strangled.
"We still don't know how she died," Patterson told Walker County Chief Judge Jon "Bo" Woods on Thursday. "It's almost like the defendant is asking for a new trial because he was successful in hiding the body."
Wood will decide if Sam Parker should be given a new trial, but Wood didn't give a timeframe for when he will issue his decision.
The most-heated arguments during Thursday's hearing came while Dunn questioned Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry about his autopsy report.
Sperry testified earlier in the morning that he believed Theresa Parker's jawbone showed signs of an injury or force of some kind that broke the bone. He said the injury wasn't caused by an animal.
But Dunn pointed out in cross-examination that Sperry didn't include his findings on the jawbone in his original autopsy report. Dunn argued that Sperry said the opposite in his report, writing that he couldn't find "any evidence of any" injuries or trauma before her death.
But Sperry argued that he wrote at the end of the report that there was no inclusive evidence -- meaning he couldn't say for certain if Theresa Parker suffered any injuries before her death but the fracture of the jaw bone was suspicious.
"It's suspicious; it's concerning," he said.
Sperry also testified that he had concluded Theresa Parker's death was a homicide by looking at the evidence that she disappeared and the location of where she was found.
But Dunn argued that Sperry's finding was based on his opinion and not evidence from the autopsy.
After the hearing, Dunn said he was optimistic that Wood might rule in their favor, but if he doesn't, Dunn said he will appeal the judge's decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.
"If we don't prevail here, we hope to prevail at the next step," he said.
Patterson said the defense didn't prove that Sam Parker should get a new trial and insisted that everything happened the way she argued in court during the original trial.
"He killed her at the house, put her body in the SUV and then went to another location," Patterson said.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...