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Man serving life prison sentence for murdering wife in Athens motel fails in bid for a new trial

Alexander Thomas Devanna

By Joe Johnson

An inmate who is serving a life prison sentence for murdering his wife in Athens over three years ago was recently denied a request for a new trial.

Alexander Thomas Devanna, now 31, was convicted by a jury in June 2019 of fatally shooting 32-year-old Casey Devanna at the Best Western motel on North Milledge Avenue in August 2017.

The Florida couple, who had been married for about a month, reportedly had been planning to travel to Colorado when they stopped at the motel.

Former chief assistant district attorney Brian Patterson, who was lead prosecutor in Devanna’s weeklong trial, said at the time that Devanna, “who was drinking heavily and using heroin, premeditated his wife’s murder at least one week prior to shooting and killing her with a 9mm handgun.”

He said that Devanna “then left her to die and returned to Florida,” and “had absolutely no care or concern for her and showed no remorse for her death and his actions. He thought he could lie and manipulate his way out of it, and he falsely claimed to the police and at trial that her death was an accident" that occurred when Casey pointed a gun at him and it discharged during his struggle to disarm her.

Facebook messages proved otherwise, however.

According to Patterson, “Devanna repeatedly messaged his friends that he intended to kill her and even took a picture of him pointing the gun at her while she was lying asleep in bed.”

Police determined that the woman had been dead for 12 hours before her body was founf by a motel employee.

Devanna was arrested a month after the murder, at a campground in Florida.

After the jury retuned its guilty verdict, Western Judicial Circuit Judge H. Patrick Haggard sentenced Devanna to life without the possibility of parole plus 10 years in prison.

Devanna first requested a new trial in June 2019 and filed an amended motion in July 2020.

The motion cited several grounds for a new trial, including that the jury’s verdict was contrary to the evidence that was presented, he received ineffective assistance from his defense attorney, and that Haggard gave the jury “confusing and erroneous” instructions concerning his self-defense claim

Haggard on Dec. 21 denied the motion on all grounds except for one, that Devanna had wrongly been sentenced as a recidivist.

Devanna had several felony convictions in Florida that would be misdemeanor offenses in Georgia, such as possession of marijuana, receiving goods obtained by financial transaction fraud, and dealing in stolen property.

After a re-sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Haggard imposed the same sentence that he did in 2019.

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