Killer's double jeopardy claim rejected by Ga. Supreme Court

9:44 AM, Mar 3, 2014   |    comments
Jason Pierce's Fulton County Jail mug shots from 2000 (l) and 2012.
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ATLANTA -- The Supreme Court of Georgia has rejected a convicted murderer's claim that his right against double jeopardy was violated.

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Jason Pierce killed two college students and shot his girlfriend in the face on Aug. 26, 1999. He pleaded guilty in 2003 to aggravated assault and two counts of malice murder, and received two consecutive life sentences without parole.

In 2011, aggravating circumstances forced the state's high court to throw out Pierce's sentences. The case was sent back to a lower court. Pierce withdrew his guilty pleas, then argued that retrying him would be double jeopardy.

"We disagree," a Supreme Court of Georgia justice wrote in Monday's opinion. "(Pierce) entered guilty pleas to the charges against him and based on these pleas, judgments of conviction were entered ... the order authorizing the withdrawal of (Pierce's) guilty pleas was vacated on (Pierce's) own motion, thereby reinstating his original guilty pleas and convictions. Accordingly, there was not in this case a second prosecution and the trial court did not err by denying (Pierce's) motion."

Pierce asked the court to reinstate his guilty pleas after learning the state planned to seek the death penalty. He was ultimately sentenced to life without parole plus 25 years in prison.

According to information presented at trial, at the time of the shooting, Pierce was a 21-year-old junior at Morris Brown College. He was dating Shunae Allen, a student at Atlanta Metropolitan College. Allen shared an East Point townhouse with fellow AMC student Patrice Lassiter and Clark Atlanta University freshman Monique Brown.

After staying the night at the townhouse, Pierce accused Allen of cheating on him. She denied it, but Pierce pulled out a gun and shot her in the cheek in her bedroom. When Pierce left the room, Allen called 911, then went to check on Lassiter and Brown, only to find that both girls had been fatally shot in their heads. All three victims were 18 years old.

After shooting the women, Pierce returned to his native Massachusetts. He was arrested a week later after a shootout with police.

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