BRUNSWICK, GA.- The Georgia man found guilty on Friday of murdering eight of his family members in 2009 will not face the death penalty. Attorneys for both the state and defense made a deal to avoid a hung jury while sparing the life of convicted murderer Guy Heinze Jr., 26.
Prosecutor John B. Johnson told reporters he took the death penalty off the table so Heinze's attorneys would agree to allow presiding Judge Steven Scarlett to excuse a juror thought to have been largely responsible for a 3-day deadlock. Neither prosecutors nor defense wanted a mistrial, which would have led to trying the entire case again in just a few months.
“It was done to get a verdict,” Johnson said. He would not comment further on the reason for the dismissal or on the identity of the juror.
Jurors in the case were deadlocked 9 to 3 on Thursday evening. After one juror was replaced on Friday morning by an alternate who had been present during the trial, a guilty verdict was reached in four hours.
Heinze was arrested four years ago for the deaths of his father and seven members of his extended family. Police believe Heinze, in a crack-cocaine induced rage, beat the victims to death with a shotgun barrel while they slept. A 3-year-old boy was also beaten, but survived his injuries. A murder weapon was never recovered.
The defense argued a single assailant could not have been responsible for the murders, and that their client, who loved his family, would not have killed them over a bottle of prescription pills as the prosecution asserted.
Lead defense for Heinze, Newell Hamilton Jr., declined to comment as he left the courthouse Friday.