By Kevin Hogencamp
As Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards sees it, in the eyes of the law, Dontravious Thomas must die for killing police Lt. Cliff Rouse. Besides, that’s what Rouse’s family wants to happen, too, Edwards says.
Edwards says he decided immediately after the Dougherty County Police Department officer was slain on Dec. 23 that he likely would seek the death penalty, but he made his viewpoint official on Tuesday to quell any speculation to the contrary.
Usually, death penalty proclamations occur at the time of indictment, which hasn’t yet taken place, he said.
“The statutory grounds are there,” Edwards said. “I already declared in my mind early on and was going to try to wait and do it officially through the indictment process, but there’s no need to wait.
“The death penalty is essentially based on the fact that this was a matter where a law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty by an act of … criminal aggression.”
The case is the second capital case for Edwards since he replaced Ken Hodges as district attorney in 2008. He also is seeking the death penalty against Allen Robinson, who is accused of stabbing Roshanda Dowell, the mother of his two children, to death in an east Albany grocery store parking lot. Robinson is raising the question of mental incompetency in his defense.
Edwards says that in both the Robinson and the Thomas case, the victim’s family supported seeking the death penalty, which will inherently result in a significantly longer court process.
“The survivors have to be committed to what will be a time-consuming process,” Edwards said. “I have had families declare to me not to seek the death penalty.”
Edwards said that he hopes that criminals and police officers are paying attention to Thomas’ prosecution.
“It is my general intent to make sure that law enforcement officers know that the full current effect of the death penalty is going to be enforced,” he said. “In other words, I want people to understand that if you harm a police officer and cause an officer to lose his life, we will seek the death penalty.”
Thomas, 20, is a convicted felon who lives in Albany. He was apprehended hiding under a trailer minutes after Rouse was slain near the Pitt Stop convenience store on Sylvester Road across from the former Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. plant.
Rouse was raised in Newton and lived in Albany for seven more years before moving to Camilla. He was a 1990 graduate of Mitchell-Baker High School and joined the Dougherty County Police Department in September 1992. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Memorials contributions may be made in honor of Lt. Thomas C. (Cliff) Rouse to any Security Bank & Trust for a fund set up for his children.