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Lori Campbell

Other Georgia Exonerations
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In July 2002, Valerie Price, a postal worker, responded to a newspaper advertisement for a house to rent for $975 per month with an option to purchase in Lithonia, Georgia in DeKalb County.

Price met with a woman who identified herself as Corenthia Davis, who said she was a real estate agent handling the sale of the home on behalf of the homeowner, Laura Campbell. On July 31, 2002, Davis showed Price the house, and Price gave her $40 in cash to run a credit check. On August 1, 2002, Price gave Davis a $300 money order payable to Laura Campbell as a good faith deposit.

On Friday, August 2, 2002, Davis called Price to let her know that her credit had been approved. Later that day, the two women met in a Douglas County parking lot where Price gave Davis $675 in cash as the balance of a month's rent on the lease/purchase. At this meeting, Davis signed the name “Laura Campbell” to a document reflecting that Price had paid a $975 deposit and that the monthly rent for the house would be $975.

Price understood that the homeowner would make some small repairs to the house, and that Price and Davis would meet the following Monday to sign a lease agreement and transfer the keys to the house. Davis told Price to call her on Monday at the same number listed in the newspaper advertisement if she “hadn't heard from anyone.”

Over the weekend, Price drove by the house and saw a foreclosure sign that had not been there on her earlier visit. Price then tried to call Davis, but the telephone number had been disconnected. Further investigation revealed that the house was in repossession proceedings.

Price contacted the Georgia Board of Realtors and was told that “Corenthia Davis” was not a realtor. However, there was a realtor named “Laura Campbell.” Campbell was licensed with a broker named Rita Bailey Bagley, and had come into the Board's offices the previous Friday to put her license on hold.

Bagley's real estate agency did not have a listing on the house that Davis had shown. Nevertheless, Price concluded that the agent who was licensed with Bagley had defrauded her.

Price filed police reports in DeKalb and Douglas Counties and accused the agent who was licensed with Bagley of perpetrating a scam.

In fact, the agent at Bagley was not named “Laura Campbell,” but was named “Lori Campbell.” On November 30, 2002, Lori Campbell was arrested on a charge of theft by deception based upon a promise to provide brokerage services. Her computer was confiscated and her home was searched. Campbell was then released on bond and immediately transferred to Douglas County to face the same charge there.

Both counties were involved because Price filed police reports in both jurisdictions based on where the transactions occurred. The home Price tried to rent was in DeKalb County and the first portion of the deposit was paid there. The second transaction involving the final payment in cash took place in Douglas County.

When Campbell appeared in court for arraignment, the prosecution subpoenaed Price so that she could see Campbell when the case was called. When Campbell stood up, Price identified her as the woman she knew as Corenthia Davis. Campbell pled not guilty and was freed on bond on that case as well.

After several other people came forward reporting they had been victimized in circumstances similar to Price’s allegations, DeKalb County sheriff’s detectives began a broader investigation.

On Oct. 4, 2004, a DeKalb police sergeant wrote a letter to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office reporting that no evidence was found on Campbell’s computer. In addition, Campbell’s fingerprints did not match prints found on the back of the money orders—including the money order from Price. “Through my preliminary investigation,” the officer wrote, “Lori Campbell does not appear to be the person who committed the fraud crimes.”

On January 24, 2005, DeKalb County prosecutors dismissed the charge against Campbell. That same day, Campbell went to trial in Douglas County Superior Court and chose to have her case decided by a judge without a jury.

Price identified Campbell as the woman who represented herself as Corenthia Davis. Price testified that she had lost the $40 for the credit check and the $975 that she had paid.

The trial lasted only a few hours and the judge convicted Campbell of theft by deception based upon a promise to provide brokerage services. She was sentenced to 10 years probation, 100 hours of community service, a $2,500 fine, and restitution of $975 to Price.

Prior to her appeal, Campbell hired a new attorney, Kirby Clements, Jr., who filed a motion for a new trial. The motion noted that Price’s initial description of Corenthia Davis was a woman who was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 150 pounds, and had crooked teeth. Campbell was 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighed 120 pounds, and had straight teeth—attaching copies of Campbell’s dental records as proof.

Clements hired a handwriting analyst who examined the “Laura Campbell” signature on the money order and concluded that it was not Lori Campbell’s handwriting. Moreover, Campbell had a very distinctive New York accent that would stand out in Georgia. Price had said nothing about the woman she dealt with having such an accent.

The motion was denied. Clements then handled Campbell’s appeal and on June 22, 2007, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. The court held that there was no evidence that Price agreed to provide the agent any consideration for her services. “A contract requires consideration between the parties, and a promise without consideration is unenforceable,” the court said.

“Without consideration for brokerage services there can be no brokerage contract, and without a definite brokerage contract there can be no theft by deception based upon a promise of brokerage services,” the court ruled. “We thus find the evidence insufficient to support Campbell's conviction for theft by deception.”

The appeals court ordered the case dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/12/2018
State:Georgia
County:Douglas
Most Serious Crime:Theft
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Convicted:2005
Exonerated:2007
Sentence:Probation
Race:Black
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:32
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No