COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The 2004 cold case murder of William Kirby Smith appears to be headed back into the unsolved folder.
More than seven years after Smith’s estranged wife and an associate were arrested and charged with the murder, the District Attorney’s Office is prepared to drop the charges.
This is the latest plot twist in the saga that has drawn national attention.
In a Superior Court filing last week, the state admitted that it can’t prove that Rebecca Haynie and her friend Donald Keith Phillips killed Kirby Smith on March 8, 2004.
The case was featured on the television show “Cold Justice” and not long after that Haynie and Phillips were arrested and charged with shooting Smith to death.
After the state failed for years to produce the raw footage from that TV show for the defense, Judge Gil McBride said the “Cold Justice” evidence could not be used at trial.
And that trial was scheduled to start in a week.
That led to this:
Assistant DA Robin Anthony filed a motion on Nov. 22nd that read:
“Upon exhaustive reevaluation of evidence, defense materials, and work product, together with conversations with defense counsel and surviving members of William Kirby Smith, Jr., the state believes it cannot meet the standard of proof at trial.”
Phillips’ defense attorney John Martin has been in the case since the arrest and maintains his client is innocent.
“The lesson is that although we have possibly the greatest legal system on earth, it’s not infallible,” Martin said. “That mistakes can happen.”
Martin and other defense attorneys have contended that there is evidence that points to the fact that Kirby could have been killed by someone other than Haynie and Smith.
The state had also failed to turn over case file material on another unsolved homicide that was committed around the same time Smith was shot to death.
Since July 26, 2014, there have been 138 motions, orders, and filings in this case.
The case has been touched by three DAs and a host of assistant DAs. This was one of the last cases former DA Mark Jones handled before he was suspended and then convicted of misconduct.
Jones tried to make it a death penalty case and McBride squashed that.
“I think asking to see the death penalty drew such attention to the District Attorney’s failure to turn over these materials that even those people who were suspicious there was nothing in this material had to think there might be something in there or else he wouldn’t be objecting so hard to turning it over,” Martin said.
Martin and the other defense attorneys are expected to ask that McBride dismiss the case with prejudice. That would mean that Haynie and Phillips could never be tried for Smith’s murder.
If it is not dismissed with prejudice, the state can bring changes back against the two if new evidence emerges.
There is a 10 a.m. hearing in front of McBride on Wednesday to consider the prosecution’s request.
More coverage on the murder of William Kirby Smith:
Woman charged with 2004 cold case murder appears in court for pretrial hearing
Suspects of Kirby Smith case back in court
Attorneys in death penalty case challenge DA Mark Jones’ leave and force him back into the courtroom
State motion in criminal case against DA Mark Jones claims he ‘disregards law and ethics to win murder cases’