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The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday that two men will be eligible for the death penalty if they are found guilty of killing a Bibb County sheriff's deputy even if they didn't know he was a law enforcement officer.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Antron Dawayne Fair and Damon Antwon Jolly for the 2006 killing of deputy Joseph Whitehead. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court said the death penalty should not be barred.

Whitehead was a member of a team of officers attempting to serve a "no-knock" warrant on a house in Macon that was suspected of drug trafficking. He was killed moments after entering the home.

Fair and Jolly were charged with murder, and prosecutors cited the killing of a police officer as an aggravating circumstance.

It was the second time the case has been appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court in an attempt to block the state from seeking the death penalty. Trials have not been scheduled for either defendant.

Defense attorneys contended in the latest appeal that the statute that lists aggravating circumstances permitting the death penalty violates constitutional rights to equal protection. They said a person who kills an undercover officer without knowing it should not be treated the same as one who knowingly kills an officer.


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