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Thomas County grand jury decision halted in officer-involved shooting

Posted at 3:51 PM, Jan 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-23 12:52:44-05

THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WTXL) - Questions from Thomas County grand jury members, including the true residence of one of them, is causing 50 indictments to essentially become invalid.

Grand jurors in Thomas County were just hours away from releasing a decision on whether to move forward with a controversial officer involved shooting case that happened in August, when the decision was halted.

That's because a problem surrounding the current residence of a single grand juror came up.

Yesterday, 16 members of the grand jury were present, the minimum that is required by law. Later in the day District Attorney Brad Shealey says he was made aware that one of those jurors is not a Thomas County resident.

"We had it checked out and verified yesterday evening, that he did indeed live in Grady County and had been living there for over a year," said Shealey.

It's likely that 50 cases now have to be heard once again by a new grand jury in April.

"Any person who is on the grand jury and is not a resident of Thomas County invalidates the action of the grand jury," Shealey explained.

WALB requested documents for the cases "true billed" by this current grand jury. The cases range from drug possession, theft and burglaries, child molestation, aggravated assault and armed robbery. According to investigators at the Thomas County Sheriff's Office, 13 people have already entered pleas based on those indictments.

"It doesn't change the facts of the case, they could enter a guilty plea on the accusation. We would just re-sentence them and have it date back to the original date of sentencing," said Shealey. "Obviously if they don't choose to do that then we will just re-present it to a new grand trial."

As for the case of deputy Josh Smith, who GBI agents say shot and killed Herbert Gilbert while serving a search warrant, that case could be postponed until May when a new grand jury can look at it.

"We'll be getting close on a year and not making a decision on the case," said Shealey. "I'm going to be looking at that because individuals that are charged or could be charged need to have a fairly speedy determination so they can get on with their life."

He says he doesn't believe it will cost the county much if anything for a grand jury to rehear these cases. He says it will just be a lot of work for the staff in his office, and this new grand jury that comes along in April.