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Family of deceased Atlanta woman fights with minister over alleged contract

Our readers may be aware of the death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, the Atlanta woman fatally shot by police during an illegal drug raid back in 2006. After enduring her untimely death, Johnston’s family is now battling with a man of God in probate court over money.

Reverend Markel Hutchins became involved in the matter immediately after the shooting took place in 2006, and began serving as spokesman for Johnston’s surviving relatives, managing their public appearances and their comments to the media and calling for responsible parties to be held accountable. Hutchins, an ordained Baptist minister, runs a public affairs consulting firm in Atlanta.

Hutchins claims he formed a verbal agreement with Sarah Dozier, Johnston’s niece and the administrator of her estate. The agreement, he claims, stated that he would receive 10 percent of any award granted to the family for the shooting. Hutchins filed suit against the estate when the family refused to pay him anything out of the $4.9 million settlement with the city of Atlanta.

Hutchins recently received two favorable opinions from the Georgia Court of Appeals, which have kept his claim alive, and he now says he is confident he will end up being able to collect his share of Johnston’s estate. One of the Court of Appeals decisions ordered a Fulton Probate Court judge to hold a hearing on the question of whether Hutchins is a creditor of Johnston’s estate. The other decision allowed his suit in Fulton Superior Court to go forward.

The Johnston’s attorney believes Hutchin’s suit will eventually be dismissed, as there was never a contract for representation in the first place.

It is unfortunate that the accidental death of Kathryn Johnston is now accompanied by a contentious probate dispute, but such disputes are often instructive for others facing similar circumstances.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Hutchins wins round in Johnston litigation,” Bill Rankin, November 21, 2012