On February 1, 2019, Richard Merritt, a disbarred Georgia attorney, was found guilty of killing his mother, Shirley Meritt, in a heinous act. Merritt had been on the cusp of being arrested for fraud charges two weeks before the murder. Despite testifying that two unknown individuals had killed his mother, investigators were able to piece together the evidence and, contrary to Merritt’s explanations, ultimately convict him of the homicide.
Merritt had claimed that the two alleged assailants had broken into the basement, beaten his mother with a 35-pound dumbbell, and stabbed her with a kitchen knife. In a startling argument, he further purported that they had threatened to harm his children and ex-wife if he reported the incident.
During the trial, prosecutor Helen Pott characterized this defense as spurious. She indicated that Merritt had stolen the victim’s car and electronics and tried to evade arrest by cutting off his ankle monitor. Moreover, she indicated that the erstwhile defendant had been caught in a lie many times in the past, pointing to his attempts to sway the jury in the fraud case and his use of an alias in Tennessee.
Merritt’s legal representatives provided an alternate defense to the jury, indicating that no evidence directly linking him to the murder and that he and his mother had a cordial relationship. Merritt himself recalled happy memories of the two laughing and reminiscing together.
Despite the two diametrically opposed accounts, the jury found Merritt guilty of his mother’s murder. Judge Courtney Johnson enforced the sentence of life in prison without parole and an additional five years.