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Charges, capital option will stand in Dawson County death penalty case
Court file photo
File photo. - photo by Julia Hansen

The most serious charges and the possibility of the death penalty will stand for a Dawson County man accused of killing his wife in a fire station parking lot.

Jeremy Wade Gibson, 48, is charged with shooting his wife, Amy Alexandria Gibson, multiple times in front of their 5- and 8-year-old children in the Fire Station No. 7 parking lot on July 29, 2019, according to a Dawson County indictment.

The two children, who were in her car during the incident, were uninjured. Firefighters and their family members were at the fire station when the shooting occurred. 

Gibson was subsequently arrested and later indicted on malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated battery, eight counts of aggravated assault, two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree, terroristic acts, robbery by force and possession of a firearm or knife during commission of a crime. 

Gibson has been detained at the Dawson County Detention Center since his arrest and is the inmate who has been at the jail the longest. A trial date has not been set.

This story continues below. 

During a lengthy March 2 hearing, lawyers worked through about a third of the outstanding motions in the long-delayed case.

Gibson lawyer Christian Lamar argued the prosecution should charge Gibson with either felony or malice murder but not both. Malice and felony murder are Georgia’s equivalent to what’s more commonly known as first and second-degree murder. 

“Either you meant to kill or you didn't,” Lamar said. “You can't not mean to kill somebody and then [later] you did mean to kill somebody…it’s intellectual gymnastics.”

Senior Assistant District Attorney Conley Greer contended the state doesn’t have to choose.

“I’ve heard some jurors say they’re confused, but [other] jurors say if you meant to hurt someone and you committed a felony, you deserve the consequences for your actions,” Greer said. 

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden denied the motion. 

Defense lawyer Laura Cobb argued related motions to declare state laws supporting the death penalty unconstitutional. She said the prosecution was using code allowing for the state to seek the death penalty for any type of murder.

Greer balked at that argument and said the opposite was true, that valid aggravating circumstances qualify a minority of murder cases for this type of punishment. 

Following the denial of multiple other motions, the prosecution will also be able to introduce evidence of alleged prior bad acts and aggravating factors at Gibson’s trial.

Bearden clarified that he had already issued an order in June 2021 for the motion for prior bad acts, known as 404(b).

“Here, the state is attempting to take Mr. Gibson’s life,” Lamar said. “It’s paramount on the court, state and defense to vet allegations, so nobody…is surprised by what happens.”

Greer agreed to a hearing for inclusion of character evidence, and Bearden granted a motion to prompt the prosecution to turn over mitigating evidence that could assist with whether to impose the death penalty if Gibson goes to trial and is found guilty. 

Lamar argued that could include any positive acts or services Gibson has performed while in jail the past three-and-a-half years.  

Bearden said he would uphold the constitutionality of admitting any victim impact evidence, denying one defense request, while granting another one to allow for pre-trial hearings about such evidence. 

“Victim impact evidence and the impact of the murder on the victim’s family is relevant, period,” Greer said.

The capital case has faced multiple delays due in part to the court shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing case backlog. The withdrawal of both of Gibson’s former attorneys and a gap without two lawyers also delayed proceedings. Two lawyers are required for capital defendants. With lawyer Nathanial Studelska of the Northeast Georgia Capital Defender’s Office recently joining the case, Gibson now has three attorneys on his legal team. 

“I’m aware of what's at stake,” Bearden said at a January hearing. “We’re not going to rush these proceedings… Realistically, it’s that we’re doing something [in] this case and moving it forward and putting it in the posture that it’s ready for trial.”

Amy Gibson’s family and friends gathered at Fire Station 7 in July 2020 to remember her a year after she was killed.