Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lawyers appointed to represent Hilton

By Nic Corbett

Two assistant public defenders have been appointed to represent the man indicted in the December killing of Crawfordville resident Cheryl Dunlap.

Ines Suber, chief of the capital murder division, and Steve Been were appointed to represent Gary Michael Hilton, 61, who is currently in a Georgia prison.

State Attorney Willie Meggs had called for a hearing Thursday, because he said Hilton was not entitled to a public defender until he'd been arraigned and declared indigent.

However, Meggs said he called off the hearing after Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker amended the order to say that Hilton had already been declared indigent in Georgia.

Either way, Meggs said he knew a public defender would be appointed at some point. It wouldn't make much of a difference when that happened.

"It really is the principle of the thing more than anything else," he said. "I don't think the public defender ought to be out soliciting defendants."

Public Defender Nancy Daniels said there is no reason why her office sought an appointment early.

"It was a foregone conclusion that we were going to represent him," she said. "If things need to be done to represent him properly in these pretrial stages, we want to go ahead and get it settled."

In capital murder cases, two public defenders are appointed, she said.

Now the State Attorney's Office is drafting a request to allow the state of Florida to "borrow" Hilton for the trial, Meggs said. The request will be forwarded to Gov. Charlie Crist's extradition office and then sent to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Meggs said his office plans to seek the death penalty.

A Leon County grand jury indicted Hilton on Feb. 28 on one count of murder, one count of kidnapping and two counts of grand theft. Dunlap, 46, a nurse and Sunday school teacher, was found dead Dec. 15 in the Apalachicola National Forest.

Hilton pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to the death of Georgia hiker Meredith Emerson and was sentenced to life in prison. He is also a suspect in the deaths of an elderly couple from North Carolina, John and Irene Bryant.

Contact reporter Nic Corbett at (850) 599-2161 or

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