He pretended to be a lawyer in order to successfully get a retrial motion.

Gwinnett County inmate Andrew Murray may not have fooled the negotiators, but he has managed to get a step closer to his goal.

A Georgia Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday sided with Murray, who was convicted of malicious murder in the shooting death of 14-year-old Paul Sampleton Jr. “Dismissing or denying Murray’s amended motion for a new trial,” it erred.

‘Unable to appear’

The court based its dismissal on a bizarre 2020 appearance in which Murray identified himself as an attorney named “Billy Drew Bey,” rather than a prose, during an evidentiary hearing on his request for a new trial.

About a year later, the trial court issued an order titled “DISCLAIMER OF APPEAL,” alleging that Murray failed because he appeared as “Bey” in the 2020 trial and identified himself as “actual counsel for the defendant” as an inmate at the Hearing, nor providing any support for the motion, while acting, albeit without a license, as “Bey’s” attorney.

“Bey offered no support for Mr. Murray’s amended motion for a new trial,” the court ruling said. “Following his failure to appear for his own retrial motion, Defendant Andrew Richard Murray’s amended motion for a retrial is hereby REFUSED.”

“Absurd Claim”

In a unanimous opinion from the Georgia Supreme Court, Chief Justice David Nahmias called the lower court’s order “confusing” and said the lower court’s ruling was wrong.

However, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the defendant had disregarded and frustrated the lower court.

David Nahmias, Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court of the Georgia Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy)

“Although at the last hearing the court claimed it would ‘dismiss’ [Murray’s] Appeal” and the final order is titled “Amended Dismissal of Appeal”, Murray had no appeal pending at the time of the order – only an amended motion for a new trial. And as for that motion, the order states that it is “hereby REFUSED,” not dismissed,” Nahmias stressed.

Nahmias went on to explain that the court’s reasoning that Murray had “no support for [his] Amended Request for a Trial” at the hearing, noting that it “had examined the merits of the numerous allegations made in Murray’s amended request for a retrial and had rejected them all because it did not provide additional evidence about the court records had submitted”.

The court got it wrong.

“The trial court could have dismissed or granted these claims entirely based on the records available,” the appeal opinion reads. “Hence, to deny them on their merits because Murray failed to provide additional support for them at the hearing would be a mistake and undermines any effort to read the order as a decision on the merits of Murray’s claims.”

The High Court also questioned the lower tribunal’s reasoning that Murray “did not appear for his own request for a new hearing”, also calling it an error.

According to Nahmias, if a defendant does not request a hearing or does not show up for a scheduled hearing, he may waive his right to a hearing and the opportunity to have the record expanded, but this does not waive his right to the merits of his or her request review a new trial and let the trial court rule on the basis of the existing records.

“Requests for a new trial can, and regularly are, decided without a hearing,” Nahmias wrote. “Therefore, Murray’s absurd claim that he did not attend the hearing was not a valid basis for the trial court to dismiss his amended motion for a new trial.”

“Obvious disrespect”

In the appeal, the attorney general’s office cited a Georgia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Mimms v. State, which found that the trial court made no mistake in dismissing Mimms after Mimms’ attorneys failed to attend a hearing for a motion on a new procedure had appeared ‘ movement.

However, the High Court Opinion clarified that “Two earlier statements in that Opinion indicate that Mimms’ application for a retrial was indeed rejected on the merits and was not dismissed on that ground”.

Murray had applied for—and been appointed—several attorneys over the course of his multiple petitions for a new trial, but he had turned them all down.

Nahmias had said he viewed the detainee’s behavior as a “blatant disregard for due process and procedure,” but acknowledged Murray’s continued right to due process.

“His filing of dozens of prose motions during his representation, his creation of an imaginary character as an attorney, and his refusal to provide proper identification to the trial court were undoubtedly frustrating to the court, which was striving to ensure he received the benefit of a duly executed request for a new trial,” Nahmias wrote. “Murray’s behavior was inappropriate and only served to waste the court’s time and delay the resolution of his case. Nonetheless, given the above analysis, we must reverse the trial court’s order and remit the case back to the court to consider the merits of Murray’s amended motion for a new trial.”

Read the opinion