Columbus, Georgia (WRBL) A Columbus man convicted and sentenced to death for the 1976 rape and murder of a Fort Benning soldier’s wife, and granted a new trial had his hearing this afternoon online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters, the court reporter, and the Judicial Assistant were the only 3 present inside the courtroom.
In the virtual hearing, Atlanta Attorney Patrick Mulvaney spoke on behalf of 64-year-old Johnny Lee Gates.
Gates had been convicted of the malice murder, rape, and armed robbery of 19-year old Katharina Wright, but was recently granted a new trial by the Georgia Supreme court due to “significant doubt” as to Gates’ guilt.
Mulvaney asked the judge to release his client on bond citing his good behavior while incarcerated and his risk of contracting COVID-19 due to his age.
Judge Peters denied the bond request. He says later this week a conference call will be made to discuss other options. News 3 spoke with Judge Peters about holding a virtual hearing.
“We’re the 1st courtroom with my court reporter to live stream a murder trial in the state of Georgia and I know a lot of people are watching and there is a lot of interests in our court proceedings. The best we can do under the circumstances I know everyone has put a lot of work into it
and it takes a lot of time to do it but we would rather have open courtrooms but right now that’s not possible,” says Judge Bobby Peters, Muscogee County Superior Court.
Judge Peters says this was the best way to keep everyone informed while staying safe during the pandemic.