Sep. 14—A Flowery Branch man was sentenced to time served for battery after a grand jury decided to not charge him with murder, according to court documents.
Zachary Duane Russell, 30, pleaded guilty Sept. 9 to misdemeanor battery. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail, but Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden deemed that time served.
Russell’s defense attorney Les Aiken said Russell served more than a year and a half.
Russell and John Marlin King Jr., 31, of Dawsonville were charged by a Hall County grand jury with aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office began investigating after the death of John Aaron McMurray, 24, who was found unresponsive Oct. 28, 2020, in his Old Athens Road home.
According to court documents, the medical examiner’s report concluded the case was a “homicide caused by blunt force trauma in someone acutely intoxicated with methamphetamine.”
The grand jury, however, declined in January to charge King or Russell with felony murder.
Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh told The Times in February that he wanted the grand jury to consider all the facts and circumstances before they decided on the murder charge.
The grand jury charged King and Russell with hitting McMurray with a pole.
King was sentenced Aug. 5 to seven years with the first 15 months in custody, and that time was deemed served.
The prosecution dismissed the aggravated assault charge for Russell.
Aiken said Russell cannot remember much from that night and “has no recollection of ever striking the victim or hitting him with anything.”
“However, when you go to trial, anything can happen,” Aiken said. “Evidence can develop that’s unexpected. Since he had already served a year and a half in jail, he just felt it was in his best interest to close it out and go on his way.”
King’s defense attorney Jake Shapiro previously told The Times the defense’s theory at a prospective trial would have been that McMurray’s death “would have likely been an overdose.”
“We would concede that there was a fight that was induced by drugs, that everybody was on drugs and that resulted in people kind of going a little crazy,” Shapiro told The Times.