Back to high court: Prosecutors want state justices to reconsider Karey decision

Prosecutors have asked the state Supreme Court for a rehearing on its recent decision to toss out a 2014 second-degree murder indictment against the man charged with killing pastor Ronald Harris, 51.

Woodrow Karey Jr., 57, is accused of walking into Tabernacle of Praise on Sept. 27, 2013, and shooting Harris twice with a shotgun. He was indicted on one count of manslaughter in November 2013. But prosecutors took the case back to the grand jury in June 2014, resulting in a second-degree murder indictment.

In January 2015, state district court Judge Clayton Davis tossed out the 2014 indictment, agreeing with the defense’s assertion that there had been an understanding by all parties that they would “live with the result of the initial grand jury.”

That ruling, however, was overturned by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in November 2015. The state Supreme Court granted the defense a stay in Karey’s case before his Sept. 12 trial date and heard oral arguments in January.

The high court on June 29 reversed the appellate court’s decision, saying there was “evidence in the record supporting the district court’s factual findings that the defense and the prosecution had a common goal to obtain a manslaughter indictment from the initial grand jury and that there was an ‘understanding’ or agreement between the parties that they would ‘live with’ or be bound by the conclusion of that grand jury.”

The court also said there was no valid justification for prosecutors to withdraw from that understanding and that they had gained an “unfair advantage” when Karey “performed under the agreement, providing witnesses and attorney work product, as well as waiving the spousal privilege as to his wife’s testimony before the grand jury.”

In seeking the rehearing, prosecutor Carla Sigler wrote that the high court “erred in presuming an agreement existed” and that the trial court’s decision to overturn the murder indictment was a “gross abuse of judicial discretion in view of the lack of evidence to support it.”

She also said critical evidence, including the contents of Karey’s phone, had not been obtained by the time of the first indictment.

“There never existed any binding promise that restricted the state from presenting further information to a grand jury as it arose in a continuing investigation,” Sigler wrote.

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