MOULTRIE — A Colquitt County Superior Court jury on Friday convicted Bobby Lewis of voluntary manslaughter for shooting his girlfriend Martha Fritts in the forehead with a sawed-off shotgun in June 2004.

Jurors deliberated a total of about three hours Thursday night and Friday morning before releasing their verdict.

The jury appeared to have responded to Assistant District Attorney Brian McDaniel’s entreaty in closing arguments to convict Lewis of voluntary manslaughter, which he said was a more fitting charge to the crime. The jury also convicted Lewis of aggravated assault and associated weapons charges, including possessing an illegal weapon.

At the time of the verdict reading, the families on both sides of this case tamped any emotion at the order of Superior Court Chief Judge H. Arthur McLane. If anyone in the gallery displayed any expression, good or bad, they would have been held in contempt of court, McLane said.

But after the jury was dismissed, the faces of the victim’s side rose in relief, while the faces of the defendant’s family fell into grief. Outside the courtroom in the hall, the victim’s son Jesse Hutchinson, 28, wore a sad smile as he summed up his ordeal.

“My mom killed my dad before I was born. I was named after my daddy. My mom spent her whole life apologizing for what she did to my daddy. It’s been rough. It’s just been real rough, and she served her time for what she did — and it was accidental. His wasn’t accidental, and I’m just glad and happy to see justice served,” Hutchinson said.

Fritts, 46 at the time of her death, leaves behind four sons. Hutchinson is the eldest. The others, from a second marriage, are much younger, he said, and the loss of their mother is hardest on them.

Hutchinson said Lewis was extremely jealous of Fritts even over her children.

“I thought about this every day. And the position that I was in growing up with her killing my father — I can remember even as a child saying I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. And now he’s put my three little brothers in the same position that I was in. That man done that,” he said.

McLane will sentence Lewis April 4 after a presentencing investigation. Until then, Lewis is out on bond. Fritts’ son said he was worried that Lewis might flee.

The defense was “stunned” at the verdict, said defense co-counsel George P. Donaldson III, and Lewis will appeal.

“The evidence utterly fails to support any of the verdict on any of the convictions,” said defense attorney John Vansant Jr.

The jury denied a felony murder conviction, but convicted Lewis of aggravated assault. During closing arguments and the judge’s explanation of the charges, the jury learned that to have a felony murder conviction, they must find that Lewis committed aggravated assault that resulted in Fritts’ death. Instead, the jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. When asked for comment, Donaldson said that conviction for an aggravated assault and not felony murder is an inconsistency.

The defense’s premise was that the shooting was accidental, and Lewis’ attorneys walked the jury through their evidence supporting that. Fritts allegedly was bipolar, and testimony said she had sudden, uncontrollable fits of rage in which she attacked Lewis. Lewis was fending off such an attack when the accidental shooting occurred, the defense said.

“They never offered once piece of evidence — none — to disprove accident,” Donaldson said.

Lewis’ attorneys plan to appeal at sentencing and ask for an appeal bond so the defendant can remain free until the appeal is heard, which could be a year later.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0