Man convicted of double murder back in court

More than 17 years after a Greenwood couple was killed in their home, the man who was found guilty of their murders is continuing to try to get his conviction overturned.

Fernando Griffith, 40, is serving two life sentences without parole in an Indiana prison, but was back in a Johnson County court this week. He has asked for his conviction to be overturned, claiming his attorneys did not properly represent him and that his rights were violated, according to court records.

His request has been pending for years, and he has already been turned down by the Indiana Supreme Court, Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.

On May 19, 2000, Lloyd Georges, 60, and Judy Georges, 58, were stabbed to death, and their Greenwood home was doused with gasoline and set on fire. Greenwood police focused their investigation on Griffith, at the time a 23-year-old exotic dancer who also did landscaping work for Lloyd Georges. Griffith was charged with two counts of murder, arson and burglary. In August 2001, a jury selected in Sullivan County because of pre-trial publicity found Griffith guilty on all charges and he was sentenced to two life sentences, plus 36 years.

Griffith had appealed his convictions, which was denied by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2003. Griffith also filed for post-conviction relief, seeking to get his conviction overturned based on his claim that his attorneys did not properly represent him, and that case has been pending in Johnson County Circuit Court, Johnson County Deputy Prosecutor Alex Hamner said.

In his filings, Griffith, who is representing himself, has argued that certain evidence should not have been allowed at trial, that proper procedures were not followed in his arrest and charges being filed, that police did an unlawful search at his Indianapolis home, that investigators used coercive tactics during his nine-hour interrogation and that jury selection was flawed and impacted Griffith, who is black, because the county selected for the trial had a low population of minorities, according to court records.

“We believe that many of these issues were addressed previously in the Supreme Court ruling. Any issues that were previously addressed by the Supreme Court cannot be superseded by a post-conviction relief claim,” Hamner said.

Griffith has a right to his request, which requires both the prosecutor’s office and the court to respond, Cooper said. Under the law, he cannot ask for a change in his sentence, but he can ask for his convictions to be overturned, which would then require a new trial, Cooper said.

But the case was solid with multiple pieces of evidence, ranging from DNA to Griffith being found with jewelry and a vehicle stolen from the victim’s home, Cooper said. Police also found cuts on Griffith suspected to be from the knife used in the stabbing, Cooper said.

Prosecutors had so much evidence in the case that they didn’t need to include all of it at trial to get a conviction, Cooper said.

“There was overwhelming evidence. Of all the cases I have ever done, I had more in that one than any other,” Cooper said.

The case is now set for an evidentiary hearing next month, and Griffith will once again be brought back to the county jail from the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, where he is serving his sentence.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.