Wife Killer’s Appeal Goes Down the Swanny

     (CN) – A former sheriff’s deputy who murdered his wife and the day laborer he had hoped to frame for the crime has no basis to appeal his conviction, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled.
     Derrick Yancey, a sheriff’s deputy in DeKalb County, Ga., had been having marital problems with his wife Linda in early 2008, and had his sights on a divorce.
     On June 8, Yancey told his supervisor he could not work the next day, as he “had something to do.”
     Yancey then allegedly hired Cax-Pulac, a Guatemalan day laborer who spoke no English, to mow his lawn and move some furniture on June 9.
     Witnesses later testified that Yancey would ordinarily never let a random person mow his “golf course-like” lawn. They also said the 5’3, 120-pound Cax-Pulac was an odd choice to move heavy furniture.
     Yancey called 911 that afternoon and reported that Cax-Pulac had robbed and shot his wife, and that he in turn had shot Cax-Pulac.
     He told policemen that Cax-Pulac and Mrs. Yancey fought over a wad of $2,000 in cash, and that Cax-Pulac shot her during the struggle after taking Yancey’s handgun from the top of the fridge.
     Forensic specialists quickly determined, however, that the crime scene did not fit Yancey’s description of the murder. For example, Mrs. Yancey suffered three close contact gunshot wounds, but her blood spatter was found on Yancey, not on Cax-Pulac. There was also no evidence that Yancy had given his wife CPR, as he had claimed on phone with the 911 operator.
     Yancey was arrested and released on bond with an ankle monitor, but he broke out of his monitor and fled to Belize.
     When he was extradited to stand trial in the United States, a jury found him guilty of a double homicide, and the judge sentenced Yancey to two life sentences.
     Appealing his sentence, Yancey claimed that he was denied effective counsel, and that prosecutors improperly prompted four witnesses to touch upon the fact that he remained silent at the police station when officers asked him to diagram the crime scene.
     The Supreme Court of Georgia dismissed his appeal last week, finding that Yancy’s attorney failed to object at trial about the allegedly inappropriate testimony.
     Even if counsel had objected, “in this case, appellant did not remain silent, nor did he fail to come forward,” Justice Keith Blackwell wrote for the unanimous court. “To the contrary, appellant voluntarily went to a police station, he voluntarily made a statement that included self-serving representations about Puluc having robbed and shot Ms. Yancey, he chose to cease his ostensible cooperation with the investigating officers only after they asked him for a diagram of the crime scene, and he never explicitly invoked his right to remain silent.”
     Yancey’s counsel also did not err when they decided not to call their blood-splatter expert, who reached the same conclusion as the prosecution’s expert that the crime could not have occurred as Yancey described.
     “The trial lawyers attempted, but could not find, another expert willing to testify otherwise,” Blackwell wrote. “Consequently, the trial lawyers had no basis on which to object to the conclusion to which [Cecil] Hutchins testified at trial … inasmuch as their own expert had reached the same conclusion.”

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