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Petition filed in case of former Gwinnett officer convicted of 1993 murder

Attorneys for Michael Chapel filed a habeas corpus petition Friday, asserting the former Gwinnett County Police officer's innocence.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Attorneys for Michael Chapel have filed a habeas corpus petition in Long County, asserting the former Gwinnett County Police Officer's innocence.

Chapel was found guilty of the 1993 murder of 53-year-old Emogene Thompson. Then-District Attorney Danny Porter argued the motive was robbery, saying Chapel knew Thompson was carrying several thousand dollars in cash.

The habeas corpus petition outlines a "recent discovery of evidence," including a dispatch call Chapel answered around the time of the murder. It alleges that Porter committed a Brady violation by not admitting it into evidence during the 1995 trial. 

Porter previously told 11Alive he doesn't recall why he didn't admit the tape into evidence, but that it likely “would have been a question of trial strategy."

He denied allegations that he suppressed evidence.

"We have an adversary system," Porter said in November 2022. "Things that would have tended to exonerate him, I'm required to give to the defense, but I'm not required to put them into evidence myself." 

RELATED: An ex-Gwinnett cop convicted of woman's 1993 murder vows his innocence. New evidence was just uncovered.

The Brady rule, named after Brady v. Maryland, requires prosecutors to disclose material, exculpatory information in the government's possession to the defense. Porter maintained the prosecution's decision not to admit the tape into evidence was not a Brady violation, but rather a potential oversight by Chapel's defense team.

The filing submitted Friday alleges prosecutorial misconduct and asks the court to consider whether Chapel’s constitutional rights were violated. It also includes two affidavits from two people Chapel's attorney say were witnesses to the crime. The witnesses' testimonies appear to point to another potential suspect.

The petition was filed by Billy Rennie of Rennie & Rosenberg of Watkinsville, Georgia. State law requires Long County Superior Court to respond within 20 days to determine whether or not a hearing should be held. If a hearing is held, the judge may vacate the conviction and sentence or move to uphold and affirm it.

You can read more of 11Alive's coverage of the Michael Chapel case, including an interview with Chapel himself, here.

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