A shooting victim’s last words were at the center of a new trial motion for a Gainesville man on a life prison sentence.
Leshan Tanner was convicted in September 2015 of felony murder in the shooting death of Cedric Huff. Huff succumbed to his injuries on June 21, 2014.
Testimony at trial revealed Tanner and former co-defendant Rodnie Stokes went to Huff’s apartment under the pretense of purchasing marijuana. Stokes agreed to a plea for voluntary manslaughter and attempted armed robbery.
Dawn Siebert from the Hall County Public Defender’s Office represented Tanner at his hearing about a new trial.
Siebert’s arguments focused on Cedric Huff’s final words to his mother Mary Huff that implicated Tanner.
“Our Supreme Court has repeatedly said that the existence of a familial relationship is insufficient in itself to establish the requisite reliability,” Siebert said.
The statement can’t be cross-examined by the defense, Siebert argued, which put Tanner at a disadvantage. Siebert noted that Mary Huff testified about her son pausing when asked what happened.
“So the question is what is going through his head during that pause?” Siebert asked. “Is he trying to process the question through the fog of his illness and medications?”
Stokes had offered his version of events before the trial began when entering his guilty plea.
“This proffer from Mr. Stokes is far more probative than the hearsay statements, the 16 words uttered by Cedric Huff in the hospital,” Siebert said.
Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge rebutted by adding that Cedric Huff called his mother after being shot before calling any law enforcement, indicating a close relationship.
“The surrounding circumstances are not ones that take away from the reliability but rather provide further reliability,” Aldridge said.
Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller took the evidence under advisement and said he would sign an order promptly.