In the brief filed with the court, Daniel Hartman's attorney, Amy Bartholow, says that Judge Gayle Crane erred when she did not allow a witness to testify who had been told by Hartman's co-defendant, J. T. Taylor, that Taylor killed Jacob Wages during a July 6, 2012, home invasion. Hartman was 17 at the time of the murder.
Bartholow noted that the witnesses who pinned the crime on Hartman, including another co-defendant, J. T.'s brother Eli Taylor, another co-defendant who was a close friend of J. T.'s and J. T's pregnant girlfriend were protecting J. T. during their testimony. The defense did not put J. T. on the stand after being told he was "unavailable" and that he would claim his Fifth Amendment rights if he were called to the stand.
With J. T. Taylor unavailable, the defense asked to call another witness, Harlin "Joel" King, who said that J. T. had told him less than 12 hours after Wages' murder that he was the one who killed Wages.
The judge rejected the defense's claim that King should be allowed to testify because Taylor's statement was an admission against interest and ruled that his testimony would be inadmissible hearsay evidence.
The brief notes that the witnesses' stories conflicted with each other.
In the response, prosecutors noted that there was never any attempt by the defense to subpoena J. T. Taylor to testify and noted that when King was questioned as Judge Crane determined if his testimony would be allowed that King said he did not believe J. T. Taylor when he said he was the one who killed Wages and thought he might be claiming it in an effort to build his "street cred."
The prosecutors also noted that it would make no difference if the testimony had been allowed since Hartman still participated in the crime. A Jasper County jury convicted Hartman of first degree murder. After the jury was unable to decide on a punishment because of Hartman's age, Crane vacated the judgment and found Hartman guilty of second degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
Testimony indicated that Hartman and his co-defendants went to Wages' apartment because the Taylors had bought drugs from Wages before. Their intent was to rob him and get money to buy more drugs. They did not manage to come up with even a penny from their robbery, despite making a second trip to Wages' apartment. On that trip, they left with a steel box. When it was opened, they found a scale and some rope.
The testimony also indicated that Wages' girlfriend, who was in the apartment, slept through the murder and both visits.