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Scott Dean gets public support, new attorney

Petition for new trial garners 25,000 signatures

Posted: January 4, 2015 - 12:08am
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Atlanta attorney Stephen Reba has been hired by Scott Dean's wife, Renee.
Atlanta attorney Stephen Reba has been hired by Scott Dean's wife, Renee.

A surge of public support and a new attorney have given new hope and vigor to Renee Dean’s fight to bring her husband, Scott, home from prison.

More than 25,000 people have signed an online petition urging District Attorney Ashley Wright to grant a new trial to Scott Dean, who was convicted of two counts of child molestation in December 2011.

“It’s given me some hope,” said Renee Dean. “It’s definitely given Scott some hope. That’s what he really needs right now.”

Wright said petitions like the one on www.change.org can spark a lot of discussion, but don’t affect who is charged with what offenses and subjected to what punishment. Part of her oath of office states she’ll carry out her duties faithfully and impartially and “without fear, favor or affection,” she said.

“The process for the progression of a criminal case at trial and appellate level is controlled by the law and by the appellate cases,” according to Wright. “It’s that way so everyone gets the same opportunities and protections. We don’t deviate from it just because someone asks for a special process or because some members of the public have indicated the desire for a particular outcome in a particular case.”

But Renee said the large number of people signing the petition is a moral boost for her family and her husband, who is serving a 20-year sentence in Georgia State Prison in Reidsville.

“Just knowing that 25,000 people believe you and know that you didn’t do this, that’s a huge thing for Scott,” Renee Dean said.

Renee recently hired Atlanta-area attorney Stephen Reba, who specializes in post-conviction work. She and Reba said they are hopeful of Scott Dean’s options in the judicial system.

Silda Dean, one of five children the Deans adopted from Guatemala in 2008, told authorities in 2010 that Dean touched her inappropriately and exposed himself to her, stating he wanted to have sex with her.

Dean was denied a new trial locally and by the state appellate court.

In October 2013, nearly two years after his conviction, Silda Dean testified that her allegations of child molestation were false.

Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. also denied an extraordinary motion for a new trial based on Silda Dean’s recantation in October 2013, saying that her recantation was not a legal cause to grant a new trial because it would only serve to impeach her. Also, he said, he can’t grant a new trial based on her admission that she made false allegations and lied on the stand unless she were convicted of perjury.

Wright said she doesn’t plan to pursue perjury charges against Silda Dean. In such cases, prosecutors have to choose which statement is true and be able to prove it.

“Where a witness has testified under oath, they have said that they are telling the truth,” according to Wright. “When they tell a different story under oath or admit that they lied, we then have to give credence to someone who essentially says that they lied once and want to be believed now. We don’t arbitrarily accept the most recent version of events as the correct one. Nor do we always accept the first version of events as the correct one. We look at all of the facts of each case collectively and make a decision about what charges we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In the eyes of the law, both of Silda Dean’s statements weigh evenly because there was no physical or circumstantial evidence to support either claim.

Reba said he plans to review all documents and evidence in the case as well as request new documentation so “additional facts can be exposed that give weight to the recantation.”

“If the DA loses confidence in the conviction and testimony for the chief witness, (Wright) may be inclined to do something,” Reba said.

If Silda Dean was convicted of perjury, a new trial for Scott Dean is a possibility, not a guarantee. New information would need to be compared to all other evidence and see what charges the law would support.

A south Georgia judge denied Dean’s habeas corpus petition in November.

Reba also said the Deans using the same attorney, Pete Theodocion, throughout the trial and post-conviction appeals was a mistake. The essence of a habeas corpus petition is the argument of ineffective counsel.

“(That) prevented (Scott Dean) from making any of those claims,” Reba said. “A lawyer can’t raise ineffective assistance (claims) against him or herself.

“Scott was effectively denied a habeas petition.”

Reba said he plans to file a state habeas corpus petition requesting it be sent back to the previous court so the petition can be amended to include the ineffective assistance claims.

Renee Dean said it’s nice to have someone with fresh eyes on the case. “He’s really just going to go at it,” Renee Dean said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing.”

The petition is available at www.change.org. Renee Dean also has set up an account to help fund her husband’s legal defense. To donate, visit www.youcaring.com/supportscottdean.

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