The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man who shot his wife in the back of the head in front of their young daughter.

On September 17, 2011, Shay Alexander Merritt called the police and reported that his wife, Rita Ann Merritt, had committed suicide. In prison, he told police the shooting happened during a fight he believed would be self-harm.

According to court documents, the coroner who responded, and later a crime scene investigator, stated that Rita Merritt’s wound did not match her husband’s description of the police.

“There was no physical way (Rita) to shoot herself behind the ear with this rifle,” said a statement from the Polk County coroner.

Police arrested Merritt and he was convicted of murder and cruelty towards children in 2014 and then sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole. He is currently serving this sentence at Hays State Prison in Trion.

Merritt filed a number of appeals, arguing that the court and his attorney made several mistakes prior to and during his 2014 trial.

In particular, he argued that the state should not have allowed a defense psychiatrist to be cross-examined because of possible bias against prosecutors.

The judge allowed prosecutors to question a psychiatrist who was testified by Merritt’s attorney about a previous arrest. The Supreme Court opinion, prepared by Chief Justice Harold Melton, while agreeing that the court had misused its discretion on this point, also stated that, given the solid evidence presented in the case, “we conclude that the error was harmless”.

Merritt also argued that the trial judge incorrectly excluded evidence that his wife belonged to a Romance gypsy family. The judges said the court made no mistake in excluding evidence of the victim’s parentage.

The Supreme Court also ruled against arguments alleging that the court erred in not allowing testimony to Merritt’s diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and by allowing testimony of previous abuse in his relationship.

During the trial, testimony from Rita Merritt’s friends described a series of physical and mental abuse, as well as one incident in 2008.

The incident occurred in a hospital shortly after Rita Merritt gave birth to one of her children. During the new baby’s visit, Merritt quarreled and physically struggled with his mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

The evidence of the incident was presented at the trial without objection by Merritt’s attorney, and the expert opinion stated that his rights had not been violated.

Eventually, Judge Melton stated that Merritt had no basis for his claim of lack of evidence.

“His defense was based on the theory that the shooting was an accident,” the statement said. “Based on the evidence presented at the trial, the jury had the power to reject Merritt’s accident theory and find him guilty of the crimes for which he was unequivocally convicted.”