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Jury finds former police officer not guilty on manslaughter charges

After deliberating all day Saturday, the jury reached a verdict at about 6 p.m. in the criminal trial of former Kingsland police officer Zechariah Presley for a fatal on-duty shooting.

The jury found Presley not guilty of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and guilty of violating his oath of office. Presley was taken into custody and will remain in jail until his sentencing on Oct. 18. He faces one to five years.

While on duty in June 2018, Presley attempted to make a traffic stop on 33-year-old Tony Green. The car crashed and Green and another man fled. Presley chased Green, then shot him after a brief physical altercation. 

The case went to the jury at about 3 p.m. Thursday after three days of testimony and evidence. When the jury reconvened Friday morning, Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett called Juror No. 15, the only black person on the jury and also the foreperson, into the courtroom by herself. Scarlett asked her if she knew either family on the prosecution or defense sides. She said no and he asked specifically about someone with the last name Green. The juror said she knew that person but hadn’t seen her in about three years.

Scarlett said the court had an obligation to ensure the case was tried fairly and asked if she could be fair and impartial after being questioned. She said yes and deliberations began again, stretching until about 8 p.m. Friday. The jury decided to return on Saturday, which is rare in Camden County.

On Saturday morning, Juror No. 15 resigned, citing health concerns. An alternate took her place and the deliberations started over.

Throughout the three days of deliberations, the jury returned to the courtroom a few times to watch Presley’s dash and body camera footage, then re-listened to testimony from five witnesses — three of the first officers on the scene, the GBI case agent and the state’s expert on use of force — for more than three hours today.

Scarlett asked the jurors around 5 p.m. to let him know if more deliberation would be productive or if they were deadlocked. The jurors sent a note saying they had decided two counts and wanted to continue discussing the third.

The jury returned its verdict less than an hour later and Scarlett warned the family, friends and citizens gathered that he would go into contempt proceedings immediately if there was any disruption. It was quiet save for faint sobbing as the clerk read the verdict.

After excusing the jury, Scarlett set Presley’s sentencing date and the prosecution asked that he been remanded into custody until then. The defense argued that Presley hadn’t violated the conditions of his bond and asked that he remain free. 

The prosecution countered that he’d been afforded the presumption of innocence then and he no longer had that. The judge ordered him to jail.

As Presley stepped away, many of the 30 to 40 people who had gathered on the prosecution’s side for days, began to protest outside, carrying signs and yelling chants, saying the fight wasn’t over yet.

Tribune & Georgian

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