The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the 2015 domestic violence murder conviction of a Warren County man on Monday, March 6, and the court’s decision that was based on a new evidence code could have great implications for prosecutors in trying future domestic violence murder cases.

The supreme court affirmed the Oct. 9, 2015, trial court’s verdict in finding John Alan Jacobs guilty of murdering his wife, Harriette Jacobs, 53, on Oct. 10, 2014. Superior Court Judge Roger Dunaway sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for murder and five consecutive years for the possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Jacobs appealed the ruling and said the trial court erred in allowing certain statements Harriette Jacobs made to be admitted at trial.  He challenged the Warren County Superior Court’s use of statements she made to friends concerning her safety and threats on her life.

On Oct. 14, 2014, six days before the Jacobs were to appear in court for divorce proceedings, emergency responders and law enforcement went to the Jacobs’ home on Golden Creek Circle in Warren County to investigate a suicide. Harriette Jacobs was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head.  The investigation revealed that the scene had been staged to look like a suicide rather than a murder.

According to Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bill Doupe´, the appeal challenged the hearsay statements because Harriette Jacobs made them outside of court prior to her death.

“We found a legal theory to present them based on the new evidence code that was put in place July 1, 2013,” Doupe´ said. “We call it the 807 evidence.”

The district attorney said the supreme court’s affirmation of the murder conviction using the 807 evidence rule is powerful. “This is the first decision in the State of Georgia since the new evidence code went in that founded that this evidence was properly admitted,” Doupe´ said.  

The state supreme court’s ruling provides a roadmap for prosecuting domestic violence homicides when the victim has made statements prior to death about domestic abuse, threats and fear of being killed, Doupe´ said.

“We have cases within this very circuit where this is going to be very important for,” he said.

The district attorney also added that the decision is also affirmation of his office’s work. “I felt good about what we were doing. I felt that we were right in presenting this evidence. I am also very relieved that the supreme court also agreed with us.”

The Harriette Jacobs murder case may possibly be in many prosecutors’ toolboxes when trying domestic violence murders, Doupe´ concluded.