The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Ryan Alexander Duke’s appeal on Tuesday after he was denied state funds to pay for expert witnesses in his defense during the Tara Grinstead murder trial.
Duke used to be represented by a public defender’s office. That changed when attorneys Ashleigh B. Merchant and John B. Merchant stepped in work for him pro bono. Though he was indigent, the trial court denied him a request for funds, having determined that Duke didn’t have the right to state funding for experts and investigators at the same time he had a private, pro bono counsel.
“[Duke] has a constitutional right to be represented by private, pro bono counsel if he so chooses, he is not simultaneously constitutionally entitled to experts and investigators funded by the State,” the trial court explained.
This dispute over state funds delayed Duke’s trial in the 2005 murder of the 30-year-old Grinstead, his former high school teacher and former beauty queen from Ocilla.
Prosecutors allege that Duke murdered Grinstead. His former classmate Bo Dukes (no relation) was charged with helping getting rid of the body. The co-defendant fought charges, but was convicted, and acknowledged guilt during his sentencing hearing.
“My actions were cowardly, callous, and cruel,” Dukes said.
Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.
[Screengrab via 13WMAZ]
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