The attorney for the Glynn County man convicted of killing his father and several others inside the mobile home they all shared four years ago says he thinks the jury overlooked shortcomings in the police investigation to find his client guilty.
Newell Hamilton Jr. left the courthouse after 26-year-old Guy Heinze Jr's conviction on Friday without speaking to reporters. He released a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday that Heinze was an easy and convenient target" for police and he fears those responsible for the killings may remain at large.
"At the end of the day, I think the citizens of Glynn County needed for someone to answer for the murders," Hamilton said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. "They needed to feel safe."
Prosecutors said Heinze had been smoking crack cocaine when he beat all eight victims to death at night. Hamilton questioned that one person could kill them all.
"We knew the biggest challenge we were going to have was to convince them one person did this," said Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering, whose officers investigated the slayings. Doering said four years later he's still convinced Heinze killed the victims by himself.
After 17 hours of deliberations ended with a 9-3 deadlock on the murder charges -- the judge replaced one juror Friday morning and prosecutors agreed to take the death penalty off the table if Heinze was convicted to avoid a hung jury. A few hours later, the jury found him guilty on all charges.
Prosecutor John Johnson told reporters dropping the death penalty had been necessary to get Heinze's defense team to agree to let the judge dismiss a particular juror because of "a situation" that contributed to the deadlock. He said neither side wanted a mistrial, which would have meant trying Heinze all over again with a new jury within a few months.
"It was done to get a verdict. That was the biggest hang-up both sides had," he said.
Heinze stood silently Friday as the verdict was read, while his younger brother ran cursing from the courtroom after the jury's verdict was read.
"This ain't right! This ain't justice!" Heinze's younger brother, Tyler Heinze, shouted as he left the courthouse. "You know Guy can't have done this (expletive)."
The trial judge will decide later whether he will be eligible for parole. A date for sentencing has not been set.