Court reverses itself and restores woman's murder conviction

AP News
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Posted: Dec 11, 2017 12:37 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's highest court on Monday reversed its own recent decision and restored the felony murder conviction of a woman whose husband shot and killed a police officer.

The Georgia Supreme Court's new opinion upholds the conviction of Lisa Ann Lebis in the 2012 slaying of Clayton County police officer Sean Callahan. It also effectively means she is once again sentenced life in prison.

The court did not say why it took a second look at the case. But it came barely a month after the same court issued a unanimous Oct. 31 decision that overturned Lebis' murder conviction — and lifted her life sentence — saying prosecutors failed to prove she "jointly possessed" the gun used to kill the officer.

In reconsidering the case, the justices concluded that ultimately didn't matter.

"Even though Lebis did not jointly possess that firearm with (her husband) at the moment of the murder, it remains true that she can be held to account for the actions of another — here, her husband — as a party to the crime or as a co-conspirator," the opinion Monday said.

Attorneys often file motions asking the Georgia Supreme Court to reconsider its decisions, and sometimes the court takes action based on those requests. But it wasn't clear what prompted the justices to revisit Lebis' conviction.

While the state Supreme Court ultimately upheld her murder conviction, its new decision Monday threw out two misdemeanor convictions for obstructing a police officer.

Tremaine Lebis fatally shot Callahan at a Motel 6 just south of Atlanta in December 2012 and then was killed by another officer, court documents say. A jury in February 2014 convicted Lisa Ann Lebis of felony murder and other charges in Callahan's death. She was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Under Georgia law, the only sentencing options for felony murder are life or life without parole.

Her lawyers appealed to the high court, noting that she was not even physically present when her husband shot Callahan. Prosecutors had used the "party to a crime" statute to get a murder conviction. It says everyone concerned in the commission of a crime can be charged with that crime.

Lisa and Tremaine Lebis were both convicted felons and had been staying at the motel in Stockbridge for about a week when they were evicted for late payment. Lisa Lebis yelled and cursed at the clerk when she learned they would have to leave, prompting the clerk to call police, according to court filings.