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Badge & Bar: Victims last words will not be heard in courtroom
Stephen Wilbanks05.2012
Stephen Wilbanks

The hearsay of a West Avenue shooting victim will not be admissible in court, Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller ruled Dec. 16.

Cedric Antonio Huff, 42, of Gainesville, was shot on June 5 on West Avenue. When his mother asked him who did it, he mentioned the name of Leshan Tremiele Tanner, 42, of Gainesville, according to court documents.

Tanner and Rodnie Maurice Stokes, 27, were indicted Sept. 23 in the death of Huff.

Senior Public Defender Larry Duttweiler filed a motion on Oct. 31 to prohibit the “dying declaration.”

“Even if relevant to establish Defendant’s presence at the scene of another’s eventual crime (as already admitted to law enforcement authorities), the prejudice that accompanies the words of an alleged victim who passed away shortly thereafter is extraordinarily sympathetic and, therefore, emotionally prejudicial,” Duttweiler wrote in his motion.

Gainesville police said the incident is believed to be part of an alleged drug deal between the victim and the defendants, as Stokes and Tanner are suspected of attempting to purchase marijuana from Huff.

A dying declaration is an exception to the rule of hearsay, allowing the testimony of an individual as evidence even though he or she cannot be cross-examined.

A pretrial hearing was held on Nov. 25, with Fuller holding that did not qualify because “it was not made while the declarant was aware of his impending death.”

10-year veteran of sheriff’s office retires

On the day after Christmas, a huge asset to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office was wished well into retirement.

Capt. Stephen Wilbanks, who worked for the sheriff’s office for 10 years, was celebrated last Friday at a retirement party.

“Stephen provided invaluable leadership to the patrol division and all of his peers,” Deputy Nicole Bailes wrote in an email. “His professionalism and dedication to both the Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Hall County has been pivotal in that he gained the trust and respect from many.”

At the event, Wilbanks had a Captain America shield, an inside joke between close friends at the sheriff’s office, Bailes said.

“Stephen excelled in everything he was a part of and he was recognized for that at his ceremony,” Bailes wrote.

Nick Watson covers public safety issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

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