DAWSONVILLE — The Forsyth County man who was set to stand trial at the end of September for a 2003 fatal stabbing pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to reduced charges.
Joshua Glen Layman, 27, stood before senior Superior Court Judge John Girardeau in Dawson County and through attorney statements admitted his involvement in the July 2003 death of 20-year-old Cameron Green of Gainesville.
Green’s decomposing body was found down an embankment in Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area about three weeks after prosecutors say Layman stabbed him to death.
Layman’s trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 29, more than five years after he was first charged in Green’s death. The case had gone to the Supreme Court on appeals three times.
Throughout pretrial hearings, Layman said he was present during the stabbing but was not responsible for Green’s death, pointing the finger at an acquaintance.
Outlining the story given to his office by Layman’s court-appointed lawyer, District Attorney Lee Darragh said Layman admitted he and Green were alone in Dawson Forest the night Green was killed.
"He alone stabbed Cameron Green ... contrary to the statements he made earlier," Darragh said.
Darragh recounted how a verbal argument between the two men escalated and became physical.
At that point, Green produced a knife, which was taken away from him by Layman, who stabbed Green two times on July 4, 2003.
A scared Layman, according to Darragh, then left Dawson Forest in Green’s vehicle, which was later recovered in Alpharetta.
Although Darragh said there are parts of Layman’s account that he does not believe are completely true, Darragh said his office would accept the story.
In exchange for his guilty plea, a murder charge against Layman was reduced to voluntary manslaughter, which carries a 20-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors have said the amount of time, the ability to produce witnesses, the death of potential witnesses and Layman’s statements about the stabbing all played roles in plea negotiations.
"I’m making an assumption from what you are telling me, Mr. Darragh, that the state believes that it would have a substantial risk in proceeding on a malice murder charge, this substantial risk of not succeeding in proving that charge beyond a reasonable doubt," Girardeau said.
Darragh answered that "would be an accurate statement." He added that there was sufficient evidence to accept a manslaughter plea and acknowledged the case could have been viewed as self-defense.
"The last thing we want is for this defendant to walk out of this courtroom without accepting his responsibilities," he said.
Layman, who did not make a statement during the hearing, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery, aggravated assault, concealing a death and giving false statements to authorities.
He received a 40-year sentence with 20 years to serve in prison, intensive probation upon release and a $10,000 fine.
Darragh said the plea would allow credit for time served on this specific case.
Layman has been held in Dawson County custody since March 2007, when his bond was revoked following a physical altercation with a woman in Forsyth County.
He also spent more than a year in the Dawson County Detention Center between July 2003 and August 2004.
Darragh said the time served would not apply to the time he has served on the Forsyth County assault unless the case has since been closed, which to Darragh’s knowledge it has not.
Members of Green’s family, who attended the plea and sentencing hearing, said they were not satisfied with the outcome, but understood the prosecution’s reasoning in accepting the negotiated plea.
"I’ve seen no remorse in this man," said Elaine Cannon, Green’s mother. "I don’t think he’s realized he’s sentenced me to a life sentence. My whole life will never be the same, because I’ll be without my son until the day I die. This is not a fair compensation."
The victim’s father, Larry Green, agreed.
"You killed more than one person that day. I hate you," he said. "I don’t feel he got what he deserved."