UPDATE: Judge to decide if testimony from Catherine Goin's cellm - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Judge to decide if testimony from Catherine Goin's cellmate to be used

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CATOOSA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) - UPDATE: The woman at the center of a high profile murder case -- pleaded not guilty in a Catoosa County courtroom, Tuesday.

Catherine Goins, 37 is facing the death penalty. If convicted, she would be the first woman out of Catoosa County and only the second woman on Georgia death row. Goins is accused of shooting Natalia Roberts in the back of the head for her newborn baby. Investigators believe Goins was living a ruse at the time, telling everyone she was pregnant.

Sheriff Gary Sisk told Channel 3, Goins lured Roberts to her former boyfriend's Ringgold home on the promise of free baby clothes. The two had not met before the day of the murder. He said Goins shot the mother of 3 while she was walking down the stairs. Roberts' two youngest children were kidnapped from the crime scene.

Catherine Goins didn't utter a word during Tuesday's arraignment. Wearing a tan suit and shackles, she kept her eyes forward away from Roberts' family. Defense attorneys entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf and told the judge they haven't decided whether or not their client needs a mental evaluation.

"We don't have any issues of competency that we wish to raise at this point in time," said Goins' attorney.

The capital defense team says Goins was targeted, while in the Catoosa County jail. They allege another inmate, housed in the same dorm was prompted to ask about her case, shortly after the arrest.

"We want to make it clear... it is a violation for the state to send anyone in to discuss the case or try to get statements from our client," said Goins' attorney.

Attorneys chose not to have the cellmate, identified as Sasha Van Pelt, testify in court Tuesday.  
 
"It is my understanding the state has done an investigation, they have interviewed her and provided us copies of the interview," said Goins' attorney.

The defense says Sashsa Van Pelt also told Goins, she was related to the presiding judge. Judge Ralph Van Pelt addressed those concerns openly in court.

"I don't know the young lady... I suspect based on what I've heard that she is probably a distant relative," said Judge Van Pelt. "I've never met her, I don't know how we're related...if we are related."

Judge Van Pelt will rule at a later date, if the inmate's testimony will be heard during Goins' trial. She was ordered never to be held in the same place as Goins, if arrested again.  

Tuesday's hearing also addressed the issue of public shackling. While Judge Van Pelt has already ruled that Goins can appear in court in civilian clothing, her attorneys are now demanding all restraints remain concealed. Both sides will be working on a security plan for trial. A date has not been set. The judge also required that all investigative agencies are to preserve interview/investigation notes and no evidence to be destroyed in testing or retesting.
 






UPDATE: Catherine Goins was arraigned in Catoosa County court Tuesday. Her defense team re-entered her plea of "not guilty" before Judge Ralph Van Pelt. No bond was requested.

Fifteen motions were filed by Goins' defense team.

Van Pelt also ruled that Goins could wear civilian clothes in court. Both the defense and prosecution teams are working on a security plan so that Goins would not have to be shackled for the trial.

The judge also required that all investigative agencies are to preserve interview/investigation notes and no evidence to be destroyed in testing or retesting.

The defense team told Van Pelt that they have not yet decided if they will file any motions that raise issues of insanity or incompetence for Goins to stand trial.


PREVIOUS STORY: A Catoosa County judge will hear arguments on if testimony from the woman placed in a holding cell with Catherine Goins will be used against her in trial.

Goins, 37, is accused of killing Natalia Roberts and attempting to take her newborn baby as her own. Goins is scheduled to stand trial later this year. She is being represented by the Capital Public Defender's Office in the death penalty case. 

According to court documents, Goins divulged information to the woman she was placed in a holding cell following her arrest. Judge Ralph Van Pelt will hear arguments later this morning on if that woman's testimony should be allowed to be entered into evidence.

In a Friday hearing Van Pelt granted camera access to today's hearing, despite objections from attorneys representing Goins and those prosecuting the case. Both sides are against television cameras being a part of pre-trial hearings. This was the second time WRCB and the station's attorney have argued for camera access under the state's Rule 22, which governs electronic and photographic news coverage of judicial proceedings. 

Stay with Channel 3 for updates on this developing story. 

READ MORE | District Attorney email reveals attempt to limit media coverage in death penalty case

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