Almost two years later, the man accused of fatally injuring Lumpkin County teenager Kaleb Duckworth in July 2021 will go to trial this summer.
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Defendant Daniel Lee Roberts’ case has been specially set for trial starting Monday, June 5 at 9:30 a.m. in the Dawson County Courthouse, according to a Feb. 14 superior court order.
This decision follows a Jan. 12 pre-trial hearing where the case’s presiding judge, Senior Judge David Emerson, heard a special demurrer to quash Roberts’ charges in the murder case.
Emerson denied the demurrer motion in a Jan. 27 order, stating that the court couldn’t find or be directed to “any case law where the indictment was found to be legally insufficient due to the lack of the specific injury information in the aggravated battery or the aggravated assault charge.”
“Therefore, because the indictment is detailed enough for the defendant to prepare his defense and safeguard against double jeopardy, the court finds that the indictment is sufficient to withstand special demurrer, and [the] defendant’s request to quash counts 1 through 4 of the indictment is accordingly denied,” Emerson’s order stated.
The senior judge has yet to issue final rulings on multiple 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 2022 order.
Emerson wrote in a November 2022 order that a final decision 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.”
During a July 25, 2021 fight with 19-year-old Duckworth at the Dawson County Applebee’s, Roberts, then 20, allegedly punched the younger teen with a closed fist, causing serious brain damage, according to his indictment.
After the altercation, Duckworth was taken to a hospital with severe brain trauma, where he 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In August 2021, Roberts’ bond for the 2019 case was revoked, and bond for the July case was initially denied.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.
During a July hearing, the court heard multiple hours of testimony about events before, during and after the Applebee’s incident.
At the end of that hearing, Roberts’ bonds were revoked in his pending 2019 and 2021 cases and denied for the 2022 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 arrest in May 2022, Roberts has remained at the Dawson County Detention Center.