March 9, 2012 12:04:37 PM
Convicted in 2008 of his wife's murder, a Caledonia man -- Brian Holliman -- was released from prison Tuesday, pending a new trial, after the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
Holliman, 30, was held in a Holly Springs facility, but was transfered to Columbus, where he was released from the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on a $200,000 bond.
"We tried," Disrict Attorney Forrest Allgood, who prosecuted Holliman, said Thursday of the overturned conviction.
Holliman was serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife, Laura-Lee Godfrey Holliman.
Citing misconduct by Allgood, in December the court overturned Holliman's conviction and sent the case back to Lowndes County for trial.
Holliman appealed the conviction on six points: insufficient evidence, lack of change of venue, jury instructions, impermissible Golden Rule argument, admission of Holliman's two written statements into evidence and failure to dismiss the indictment.
The court ruled only on the Golden Rule argument and decided Allgood used the prohibited argument, which asks jurors to put themselves in the place of one of the parties in a trial.
Justices referred to a court transcript excerpt, in which District Attorney Forrest Allgood asked jurors, four times, how they would feel with a gun pointed in their faces.
Sixteenth Circuit Court Judge Lee Howard presided over the case and allowed the line of inquiry, despite repeated objections from the defense, represented by Steven Farese Sr. of Ashland.
Holliman's bond initially was set at $1 million in Lowndes County Justice Court; he later was released on a $200,000 bond set by Howard.
The murder case drew controversy from the beginning, when Holliman was released on bond a day after his arrest. Several local politicians, including Caledonia Mayor George Gerhart; Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus; Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Columbus, and former Columbus Municipal School Board member Bruce Hanson, signed papers requesting a change of venue. Howard denied the change-of venue request.
Holliman contended his wife's death was caused by a self-inflicted gunshot, but Allgood told jurors Holliman informed investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office he "purposely pointed the shotgun" at his wife.
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