State vs. Tommy Ray-Brent Marsh (03CR20884,03CR20885,03CR20886,03CR20887), Walker (Georgia) Superior Court

Ronald Michael Cordova

Case Conclusion Date:January 31, 2005

Practice Area:Criminal Defense

Outcome:Negotiated plea (after Supreme Court ruling)

Description:Tommy Ray-Brent Marsh operated the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia from when his father and crematory founder Tommy Ray Marsh fell ill in 1996 until February, 2002 when over three hundred uncremated human bodies were discovered on the property. Charged with seven hundred and eighty seven felony counts, Marsh was facing potential sentencing of over eight thousand (8000+) years. A tactical defense victory was obtained when, on interlocutory appeal (S0412121; S0510057, Tommy Ray-Brent Marsh v. State), the Georgia Supreme Court certified three critical questions for a pre-trial appeal, to wit: "a) Is a human corpse the property of another so that it might be the subject of a theft by taking?; b) If a human corpse is the property of another and can be the subject of a theft by taking, is the operator of a crematorium in a fiduciary relationship with the owner of the property taken so as to make the taking a felony under OCGA 16-8-12(a)(3)?; and c) What is the legal definition of 'fiduciary relationship' that should be submitted to the jury charged with resolving the issue to the existence of such a relationship?" The fact that the Georgia Supreme Court certified these questions for determination potentially jeopardized the state's theory of prosecution. Soon after these questions were certified, a plea deal was reached where Marsh would serve twelve (12) years. Had the case gone to trial, the defense was developing a theory that both of the Marsh men were affected by years of inhaling toxic mercury fumes from the poorly ventilated crematory structure. The defendant himself tested positive for high mercury content, mitigating if not outright explaining the psychology behind his failing to cremate hundreds of bodies, and his father died in 2003 after suffering from multiple physical ailments that have all been linked in scientific studies to mercury poisoning.

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