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Senior judge eyes summer 2023 trial in Daniel Roberts’ 2021 case
Roberts Jan. 12 2023
ADA Robert Gardner, left, argues against a special demurrer for charges in Daniel Roberts’ 2021 case as Senior Judge David Emerson, center right, and defense lawyer John Luke Weaver, right, listen - photo by Julia Hansen

With a senior judge expected to rule soon on remaining motions, defendant Daniel Lee Roberts could go to trial this summer for charges related to Kaleb Duckworth’s July 2021 death. 

This story continues below.


After hearing from the prosecution and defense, Senior Judge David Emerson proposed a trial, beginning with jury selection, for either the week of June 5 or June 12. 

An official with Dawson County Superior Court confirmed more available trial weeks locally during the summer, such as the first half of June.

This would give the defense more time to subpoena and schedule witnesses, said one of Roberts’ attorneys, John Luke Weaver. 

Lawyers for both sides kept proceedings brief in Dawson County Superior Court as they got to the matters at hand during Roberts’ status hearing the morning of Thursday, Jan. 12. 

As part of a motion for a special demurrer, defense lawyer Michael A. Ray took issue with counts 1 and 4 in Roberts’ indictment, asking for the senior judge to quash those charges.

The first count alleges felony murder relating to aggravated battery, while the fourth count alleges aggravated battery, according to the indictment. 

While Ray argued that Duckworth’s brain injury would have to be further specified in those charges, Assistant District Attorney Robert Gardner argued on the state’s behalf that such specification isn’t required. 

“It’s hard to cite a case where it did have to be cited,” Gardner said about further specifying injuries. “This is a legally sufficient indictment.” 

Emerson is expected to decide on the special demurrer motion in the near future. As well, there are still multiple outstanding motions about which photographic evidence to allow or disallow at trial.

The senior judge has deferred final rulings on the prior acts and change of venue motions.

“At this stage of the case, it does not appear that the state particularly needs this extrinsic evidence to prove that the defendant intended to hit the decedent,” the senior judge stated in a July 27 order. 

The senior judge wrote in a Nov. 1 order that a final ruling on a change of venue would be deferred “until such [a] time as the court can begin voir dire of the jurors summoned for the trial of the case.”

Timeline

During a July 25, 2021 fight with Duckworth at the Dawson County Applebees, Roberts allegedly punched the younger Dawsonville teen with a closed fist, causing serious brain damage, according to his indictment.

After the fight, Duckworth was taken to a hospital with severe brain trauma and died on July 27.

The prosecution charged Roberts with two felony murder counts in relation to the alleged aggravated assault and aggravated battery accusations also connected to Duckworth’s death, the indictment stated. 

Previously, Roberts was indicted in June 2021 on the charges from a 2019 aggravated assault case. As part of his bond conditions, he was not supposed to violate any laws while those charges were pending. 

In August 2021, Roberts’ bond for the 2019 case was revoked, and bond for the July case was initially denied. Then that December, the court reinstated his bond in the earlier case and set a $100,000 bond for the 2021 case. 

The condition to violate no laws was a bond provision in both cases. Roberts’ bond was paid, and he was released from DCSO custody. 

The defendant started off last year released on bond. In May 2022, his lawyers submitted a change of venue motion.

Just eight days later, their client was arrested and accused of assaulting and threatening a friend of Duckworth’s. Senior judge David Emerson was subsequently appointed to handle the proceedings. 

In June, Roberts was indicted on one charge each of aggravated assault and terroristic threats. 

At a July 2022 hearing, Roberts’ bonds were revoked in his pending 2019 and 2021 cases and denied for the newest one. 

Following that hearing, Roberts’ Miranda motion was denied. The defendant’s motion for immunity was also denied during another multi-hour pretrial motions hearing in October.

Since his May arrest, Roberts has remained in custody at the Dawson County Detention Center. 


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