Attorney General Baker Announces Successful Defense of Death Penalty Conviction in Federal Court
(Atlanta) Attorney General Thurbert Baker announced that his office had successfully defended on appeal to the Eleventh Court of Appeals in Atlanta the denial of federal habeas corpus relief to Curtis Osborne, a Spalding County native who received the death penalty for the 1990 murders of Linda Lisa Seaborne and Arthur Lee Jones. While Osborne can move to reconsider the October 16, 2006 order of the 11th Circuit, only that or an appeal to the United States Supreme Court remains before an execution date can be set for Osborne in the Superior Court of Spalding County.
According to the Georgia Supreme Court, in Osborne’s direct appeal from his conviction heard in 1993, “[Osborne] was convicted by a Spalding County jury of the murder of Arthur Lee Jones and Linda Lisa Seaborne. The two victims were found in an automobile by the side of a dirt road. Both had been shot through the head. After investigation, Osborne was arrested, and eventually admitted shooting the victims, claiming that Jones had reached toward the floor for a weapon. However, the crime scene evidence, including powder burns and blood spatters, showed that Jones had been sitting upright when he was shot by a gun whose muzzle was only an inch from his skull.” 263 Ga. 214, 214-15 (1993)
Osborne’s appeal alleged that his death penalty trial in 1991 was unfair. The Eleventh Circuit rejected Osborne's arguments that Osborne's defense attorney provided ineffective assistance at trial. The federal appeals court agreed with the arguments made by the Attorney General’s office and found that Osborne had failed to establish that there were any constitutional problems with either his conviction or his death sentence.
Baker, in announcing the appellate victory, stated that he was pleased that the state “was close to seeing justice done in this case. This convicted murder has been sentenced to death by a jury of his peers, which is the appropriate punishment for this senseless and heinous crime.”
Once an inmate has been convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to death, the defendant can institute a direct appeal of his conviction and sentence, first to the Georgia Supreme Court and then to the United States Supreme Court. After a direct appeal has been concluded, a death row inmate can then institute habeas corpus proceedings, which are challenges to the constitutionality of the underlying conviction. The first habeas process involves a state habeas challenge, filed in state superior court, with appeals taken to the Georgia Supreme Court and then to the United States Supreme Court. The second habeas process involves a federal habeas challenge, filed in federal district court, with appeals taken to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the United States Supreme Court. After conclusion of the federal habeas process, the trial court, in this case the Spalding County Superior Court, together with the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, would set an execution date for the death row inmate. Yesterday’s decision is the second step in the federal habeas process, and signals that Osborne’s challenges to his conviction and sentence are drawing to a close.