Pelham’s Dewey Green in court Monday before his 2015 trial in Douglas County. (Contributed)
A Pelham man convicted of killing a grandmother in Georgia five years ago will get a new trial because a key defense witness was not allowed to testify originally, a court ruled Thursday.
The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision and granted 28-year-old Dewey Calhoun Green a new trial. He is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for malice murder, along with two consecutive 20-year sentences for two counts of aggravated assault.
Green, the grandson of former Birmingham Mayor W. Cooper Green, was convicted in August 2015 in Douglas County, Georgia, for the death of 53-year-old Janice Pitts. Pitts died after police say Green repeatedly rammed her car and then ran over her for no apparent reason on June 25, 2014.
Prosecutors said at trial that Green rear ended Janice Pitts’ car with his truck, then hit her car two more times. When she got out to look at the damage, police say, Green pressed on the accelerator, pinning Pitts between the two cars, killing her. Police say Green then ran over Pitts’ body as he was driving away.
Pitts was killed in front of her daughter, Iesha Davis, and 4-year-old grandson, Kemani Price, who both were in the family’s SUV.
Green’s attorneys said the Pelham native had a head injury that caused a seizure after getting into a fender bender with Pitts, and that he wasn’t in control when he struck Pitts. They appealed to the state’s highest court, asking for a new trial because two of their key expert witnesses were barred from testifying at Green’s trial.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled one of the expert witnesses’ testimony could have changed the jury’s verdict.
“At trial, the State presented evidence that Green had trace amounts of sedatives in his blood and had been up late the night before the accident. It argued that he had acted intentionally in driving his truck into Pitts, although his judgment was impaired,” according to Thursday’s ruling. “At that same hearing, (a defense expert witness) indicated that he intended to testify that Green lost consciousness after the initial collision between the vehicles and suffered a concussion and possibly a seizure.”
“Whether Green’s actions were conscious and voluntary was the critical issue at trial. The State’s evidence on that point rested almost entirely on the credibility of its expert witnesses and the observations of some of the witnesses at the scene. (The defense’s expert) testimony, which provided an alternative explanation for certain physical evidence… would have given weight and credence to the testimony of the witnesses who testified that Green appeared dazed and unresponsive or that he appeared to be experiencing some sort of medical event, as well as the defense’s argument that Green was not consciously controlling his truck,” the court order stated.
“It would also strengthen and explain the testimony of the witnesses who did not see Green back up, but rather observed Green’s truck push against Pitts and her SUV in more of a rolling motion until finally getting past the SUV…. Accordingly, we cannot say that it is highly probable that the erroneous exclusion of (the expert’s) testimony did not contribute to the jury’s guilty verdicts.”
All nine of the court’s justices concurred on the opinion.
Green’s attorney Ashleigh Merchant said the 2014 crash was a “tragic accident” but Green did not intend to kill Pitts. She added that the Green family has felt, and still feels, awful for the Pitts family; but, that neurological experts will now be able to testify that Green was unconscious when he ran over Pitts.
“The jury will now get the full story,” Merchant said. “He’s thrilled. He’s so excited, because he has waited since 2014 for his chance to tell his story.”
Ciara and Lauren Green, Dewey Green’s sisters, released a joint statement. It said, “We are happy to finally be given the chance at a fair trial. We believe this will result in true justice for both families.”