March 31, 2014

Local public defenders to handle Mims murder case unless death penalty introduced

Rachel Brown

— Local public defenders plan to continue representing an accused murderer unless they learn she will face the death penalty, Assistant Public Defender Brandon Sparks said Monday.

Sparks, along with Assistant Public Defender Steve Blevins, is representing Skyy Mims, who is accused in the March 9 stabbing death of a convenience store clerk on Airport Road in Dalton. Sparks said the office will still represent the 21-year-old from Detroit unless District Attorney Bert Poston decides to pursue the death penalty.

Poston has said he needs more time to review the facts of the case and meet with the victim’s family before deciding.

“We are doing what we can pushing for it not to be capital (punishment) at this point,” Sparks said.

Mims remains in the Whitfield County jail without bond and no court date set. She’s accused of killing Dayahbhai Kalidas Chaudhari, 37, who was a clerk at Hi-Tech Fuel. She is also accused of stealing money and lottery tickets from the store. Authorities said the two did not know each other.

Sparks said if Mims’ charges turn into a death penalty case, his office would pass it on to the Georgia Capital Defender Program, which by law must handle such cases. He said the local office will continue to handle the case with “the level of professionalism that a private attorney would” as long as they have it.

Sparks declined to discuss whether Mims claims she is innocent. He said attorneys are still getting to know Mims and gathering evidence.

“We are still in the investigative phase,” he said. “We’re getting to know her, trying to find out her history.”

That history includes one as an honor roll student during high school in Detroit. She played basketball and was enrolled at an institution similar to the career academies in Georgia, Sparks said. She had also enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit and was working toward a career in modeling and music.

Authorities have declined to release the surveillance footage from the store or say what it reveals. A screen shot photo from the surveillance video the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office released shows a person authorities said is Mims inside the store wearing a black hooded jacket, apparently without a shirt underneath.

Sparks declined to discuss why Mims was in Dalton a few days after visiting a nightclub in Atlanta.

Poston said on Friday the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the sheriff’s office were “still compiling their information so they can provide that to us and we can evaluate the case” before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.