In a shocking twist, accused murderer Brian Holliman has been released from jail.
Holliman was serving a life sentence for the Oct. 25, 2008 murder of his wife, 24-year-old Laura Lee Godfrey-Holliman, when his conviction was overturned in Dec. 2011. Holliman was transferred from a facility in Olive Branch, Miss. on Tuesday and bonded out of the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center late that evening.
Holliman’s conviction was overturned when his lawyer, Steven Farese, claimed prosecutor Forrest Allgood violated “the Golden-Rule argument” and acted in “an egregious display of prosecutorial misconduct.”
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Holliman, saying that Allgood violated the golden rule when he repeatedly asked jurors “How would you feel with a loaded shotgun in your face?”
According to The Supreme Court “In this case, the prosecutor erred in repeatedly asking the jurors how they would feel to have a loaded shotgun in their faces. The prosecutor essentially requested that each juror put himself or herself in the place of Laura during the fatal altercation, which was an egregious display of prosecutorial misconduct. This Court previously has determined that the use of the golden-rule argument is reversible error. In the case at hand, the prosecutor’s argument was a blatant violation, and the trial court erred in overruling both objections from Brian’s counsel. Accordingly, the prosecutor’s error is fatal, and this Court reverses the trial court’s judgement and remands for a new trial.”
The following is an excerpt from court documents in which Allgood addressed members of the jury:
In the statement that [Brian Holliman] gave on Oct. 29th . . . this defendant admitted – I believe the exact words in the statement are: I purposely pointed my shotgun at Laura Lee Holliman. He purposely pointed a loaded shotgun with the safety off and his finger on the trigger at another human being.
I grew up with guns. And I’m not one to play with them. If I did not have the respect with them that I do, then perhaps it would have been a dramatic thing for me to take that shotgun over there, open the breach, and walk in front of the jury and point it at each and every one of you. What would you have felt if I had done that, Ladies and Gentlemen?
[Brian’s counsel objected and was overruled.]
Let’s change that a little bit. Let’s say that I took a round and put it in the chamber and then walked before you, once again pointing it at each and every one of you, with the safety off and my hand not on the trigger, how would you feel? Would you squirm? You think you might duck?
Let’s suppose that I take that loaded shotgun, I point it at you in your face, and I knock the safety off. I still don’t have the finger on the trigger.
[Objection was continued by Brian’s counsel, and again, overruled.]
How would you feel then? Would you feel threatened, Ladies and Gentlemen? Would you think that I was irresponsible or worse? Would you feel the danger and the presence of it?
Let’s say that I put the round in the gun, and I take the safety off, and I put my finger on the trigger, and I point it at you as I come down this line. You’d be outraged. And you should be. Because what I’m doing when I do that is creating a situation that fatal consequences may very likely occur.
Golden Rule states that lawyers are not allowed to ask jurors to put themselves in the victim’s shoes. Jurors convicted Holliman of the murder in Dec. 2009.
Holliman initially claimed that his wife killed herself but he later confessed to the fatal shooting, telling investigators, “I purposefully pointed the shotgun” at Laura Lee. Laura Lee was killed when she suffered a single gunshot wound to the face from a 12-gauge shotgun.
Investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department believe Laura Lee was attempting to leave her husband when the two got into a verbal argument. Things quickly escalated when Holliman allegedly pulled out the shotgun, shooting and killing his wife while their children played outside in the front yard.
Circuit Court Judge Lee Howard handed down a $200,000 bond on Tuesday. Kenneth Montgomery’s bonding company, National Bonding, bonded Holliman out of LCADC Tuesday night.
As of press time Wednesday evening, a new trail date for Holliman had not been set.