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Death defendant wants judge recused
Motion filed under seal
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Lawyers for a teen facing the possibility of the death penalty want the presiding judge off the case, though their reasons remain unknown to the public.

A motion was filed under seal Friday in Hall County Superior Court in the case of Alan Robert Dickie, a Maryland 19-year-old charged with rape and murder.

Jason Deal, the superior court judge who was selected to preside over the case by a random drawing, placed the motion filed by Dickie’s attorneys under seal Friday, then issued an order three hours later that referenced it as a motion to recuse, court documents show.

Deal transferred the matter to Hall County Chief Superior Court C. Andrew Fuller. It was not known Friday when Fuller might hold a hearing on the motion.

Doug Ramsuer, Dickie’s lead defense attorney, acknowledged Friday that he filed a motion under seal but declined to say what it concerned.

The defense motion was not the first in Dickie’s case to be filed under seal, which prevents public view.

"I filed it under seal because I felt like I was required to do that because of other things that were filed under seal," Ramsuer said.

District Attorney Lee Darragh filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Dickie in November.

Dickie was indicted on charges of murder, rape, kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated sodomy in connection with the August 2007 stabbing death of 37-year-old Claudia Toppin.

Police have said Dickie, who was homeless, may have encountered Toppin at an area shelter.

Deal was selected as the presiding judge by the random drawing of a numbered Ping-Pong ball in a procedure intended to fairly distribute the labor-intensive death penalty cases among the Northeastern Judicial Circuit’s four full-time judges. It was his first death penalty case since taking the bench in 2005.

Lawyers for another area death penalty defendant, Lynn Turner, unsuccessfully sought to have the presiding Forsyth County judge recused because the defendant’s mother once worked for him.

A visiting senior judge heard Turner’s motion and denied it. A jury later sentenced Turner, convicted of the poisoning deaths of two men, to life in prison without parole.

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