Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawyer: Homicide, but Not Murder; Defense Attorney Admits His Client Killed Judge

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawyer: Homicide, but Not Murder; Defense Attorney Admits His Client Killed Judge

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

JESUP - Bobby "Rex" Stribling Jr. beat municipal Judge Glenn Thomas Jr. to death but didn't murder him, his lawyer told jurors Friday as Stribling went on trial for his life.

Gerald Word asserted Stribling, a 49-year-old crack cocaine addict with 37 prior felony convictions, was provoked by the former longtime Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney, whom he asked for a loan.

"Mr. Thomas told him he wouldn't give money to white trash convicts. Rex snapped, grabbed something off the desk and struck Mr. Thomas," Word said in his opening statement.

"It's a horrible, horrible tragedy but it's not murder with malice aforethought. He didn't go there with any intent to murder him," Word said.

Stribling's father had paid Thomas $500 to get his son out of prison early but when that didn't happen the family felt Thomas owed them a refund. Two days after his release, Stribling went to Thomas, 74, for a "friendly conversation" about getting their money back, he said.

"The evidence will be very clear that Rex Stribling caused the death of Glenn Thomas. He took his money, took his truck, took his wallet and cell phone," Word said. "We agree there was a homicide but we don't agree this was a murder."

Special prosecutor Rick Malone agreed up to a point but told jurors Stribling is guilty as charged of malice murder. Malone said the evidence will show Stribling tracked down Thomas, waited until he was alone in his office, then attacked him with a heavy object he'd brought with him in a brown bag.

"Bobby Rex Stribling walked straight in the door and attacked Mr. Thomas. He hit him over the head over a dozen times and that fractured Mr. Thomas' skull more than a dozen times," Malone told the jury.

Stribling attacked Thomas while he was sitting in his office chair, he said.

"This is not just a murder. ... It's a murder that crosses the line," Malone said.

He said the evidence also will show that Stribling rifled Thomas' pockets, took several hundred dollars and his truck keys and then left him helpless.

TRADED TRUCK FOR CRACK

By tracking Thomas' cell phone signal, police found and arrested Stribling at a Brunswick hotel and located Thomas' truck, which Stribling had traded for crack cocaine, Malone said.

Beaten June 24, 2007, at his downtown law office, Thomas died two weeks later at a Savannah hospital when his family removed him from life support after doctors told them he was brain dead.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Stribling, who has been in and out of prison since 1989.

If the five-man, 10-woman jury, which includes three alternates, had looked out windows of the Wayne County Courthouse, they could have seen Thomas' old law office on the opposite side of East Cherry Street. …

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