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High court will hear 2 cases from Forsyth
One is defendant in farmhouse slayings
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Forsyth County News
The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to review appeals in two unrelated cases with Forsyth County ties next week.

Both hearings are scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in Atlanta.

In the first case, Marcin Sosniak has asked the court to consider whether his statements to authorities can be admitted when his case goes to trial.

He is one of three suspects who have pleaded not guilty in connection with a March 19, 2006, massacre at a Forsyth County farmhouse.

In the second matter, Bonnie Hicks has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to review an appeal in a civil case involving a July 2004 wreck blamed on Jessica Heard, a young woman who worked part time for her father’s company.

Hicks has taken issue with whether Heard was on call at the time of the collision.

Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn is seeking the death penalty against Sosniak, Jason McGhee and Frank Ortegon in the shooting deaths of four people at a hangout off Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

The men, who each face 20 charges, are being tried separately. None of the cases has gone to trial.

According to court documents, authorities picked up Sosniak from his mother’s house the night of the slayings and took him to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, where he was interviewed for about two hours.

About 30 minutes before the interview was over, the documents show, Sosniak admitted being at the house and said he’d “heard gunfire.” He was arrested and read his Miranda rights.

An attorney accompanied Sosniak during a March 23 interview. However, during another session with authorities, he went to Lake Lanier without his legal representative and helped find the gun used in the attack, according to the documents.

In an ensuing interrogation, Sosniak said he suggested to Ortegon and McGhee that they rob the house and scare the people inside.

His attorney eventually withdrew from the case and his new attorneys filed motions to suppress Sosniak’s statements. The Forsyth County Superior Court ruled they are admissible.

The state contends it was not necessary to Mirandize Sosniak at the beginning of his first interview because he was not in custody.

The documents go on to say he was not handcuffed during the interview and the door to the room was unlocked.

The state also argues that he freely waived his rights, once they were read to him, and volunteered to help authorities find the gun. Furthermore, his attorney knew he was meeting with deputies without him.

Sosniak’s attorneys, Charles Haldi and William Finch, point to the manner in which the first interview was conducted.

They contend, according to court documents, “Any reasonable person would consider himself in custody and he should have been read his rights from the outset.”

His statements on March 23 should be inadmissible, they argue, because he had invoked his right to an attorney and “a suspect can not be subjected to further interrogation without his attorney, unless the suspect himself initiates it.”

In addition, his attorneys say an investigator gave Sosniak the impression during a March 29 interview that if he cooperated he would be free to live with his daughter. If he didn’t, however, he would get the death penalty.

The state argues that Sosniak’s attorney was present during that interview and “no investigator held out hope of benefit or threatened Sosniak.”

According to state law, a confession must have been made voluntarily without being encouraged by hope of benefit or fear of injury, in order for it to be admissible.

In the second case, Hicks sued Heard, her father, Samuel Heard, and the family’s fuel company, Mark Heard Fuel Co., for personal injuries.

The trial court granted summary judgment and found that there was no need for the case to go before a jury because Jessica Heard was not working when the wreck happened.

The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.

Steven Leibel, the attorney who represents Hicks, contends in court documents that the appeals court “failed to give proper weight to Jessica’s on-call status” and failed to follow precedent set by the state Supreme Court in a 1979 case.

In that case, the court ruled that an employee driving an employer-owned vehicle “is presumed to be acting within the scope of employment.”

Heards’ attorneys, Render Freeman and M.J. Blakely Jr., maintain the appeals court ruled appropriately and that the company is not “vicariously liable” for the damage Heard allegedly caused.

The defense contends Heard was not on call the day of the wreck and was not scheduled to work that entire month because of her school schedule.