Defense for Atlanta spa shooting suspect raises concerns with 2021 indictment

Robert Aaron Long is seen during his arraignment in Fulton County Superior Court on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Atlanta. The man already sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to fatally shooting four people at a massage business outside Atlanta pleaded not guilty to shooting four others on the same day at two spas inside the city. (Elijah Nouvelage/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Robert Aaron Long’s defense is challenging the composition of the Fulton County grand jury that indicted him more than two years ago.

Long had a motions hearing on Friday, Oct. 20, for the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings.

His attorney, Christian Lamar, said there are issues with how the grand jury in his case was selected, because the county’s master jury list allegedly included duplicates, expired driver’s licenses and inactive voters.

“All of those work together, your honor, we believe to make this indictment flawed,” Lamar said.

Long’s defense then questioned mathematician Jeffrey Martin on jury procedures and statistics for nearly three hours.

Martin said that before 2012, Fulton County used what’s called “forced balancing,” which is when court clerks adjust jury lists so racial and gender demographics match the most recent census.

The issue, he said, is that the census is taken only once every ten years, and populations shift, meaning the practice could have been making disparities among juries even worse.

The county now uses a “centralized list” that is supposed to be updated annually with driver records, voter registration lists and local vital records. But, Martin said he’s found numerous duplicates.

“That group of people who are duplicated are a special group,” Martin said. “They have a higher chance of being selected than anyone else, and that’s not random once you give people different chances of being selected.”

Prosecutor Kevin Armstrong said there’s nothing unusual about how the grand jury in Long’s case was selected.

“This is an indictment that has existed since May of 2021, and … these challenges are really supposed to be handled as soon afterwards as possible,” Armstrong said.

Long is already serving a life sentence for killing four people in Cherokee County but faces the death penalty for allegedly killing four more people in Fulton County. Most of the victims were of Asian descent.

His defense has also argued that because of his age during the time of the shootings, the death penalty should be taken off the table.

A trial date has not been set.