By Joe Johnson
The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday upheld the 2015 conviction of an Athens man for a crime spree a decade ago in which he murdered two people, including an Athens-Clarke County police officer, and attempted to kill another officer.
Following a monthlong trial, a jury convicted Jamie Donnell Hood on 36 counts of a 70-count indictment. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
During the trial in Clarke County Superior Court, jurors learned the following about Hood’s three-month crime spree in 2011:
While serving a 10-year prison sentence for a 1997 armed-robbery conviction, Hood got to know a drug dealer from Atlanta. After being released from prison, he was unable to get a good job because of his criminal record and so he began selling drugs he obtained through his prison contact.
He introduced to his Atlanta connection two acquaintances from Athens, Judon Brooks and Kenyatta “Ken” Campbell. Brooks and Campbell began doing business with the Atlanta connection and gave Hood a cut from each transaction they made. The men also gave Hood a Cadillac. After a while, Brooks and Campbell began doing business directly with the Atlanta connection, denying Hood his share of the action. That enraged Hood, who planned to kill Brooks and Campbell out of revenge.
In December 2010, Hood shot and killed Knottingham Drive resident Kenneth Omari Wray - Brooks’ best friend - as a means of “sending a message.”
Before shooting Wray seven times, Hood tried to find out from the victim where he could find Campbell.
Wray’s body was found in the victim’s driveway by a man who had made arrangements to buy marijuana from Wray that night.
Three months later, in March 2011, Hood kidnapped Brooks and was taking him somewhere to kill him when Brooks escaped from the trunk of Hood’s car at a red light at Winterville and Lexington roads. When Hood saw that Brooks had escaped, he wanted to kill him right there, but chose not to because other motorists were around as witnesses. After abandoning his car on a nearby side street, Hood called for a ride from his brother, Matthew.
When Athens-Clarke County Senior Police Officer Tony Howard stopped Matthew to see if he knew where his brother was, Jamie Hood got out of the vehicle and shot the officer in the face and shoulder because he “knew his life was over” and would be sent to prison for kidnapping Brooks.
Hood shot and killed SPO Elmer “Buddy” Christian III as the oficer spoke on his cellphone in his car parked near the crime scene on Sycamore Drive.
Hood, who acted as his own attorney during the trial, said he believed that by shooting the officers, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department would know how it felt to lose one of their own. That belief stemmed from Hood’s brother being shot and killed by a police officer a decade earlier in what was deemed a justified use of force because authorities said Timothy Hood had placed a gun to the officer’s head and threatened to kill him, but the officer wrestled the gun away and killed Timothy Hood in self-defense.
During the trial, Hood justified shooting Howard and Christian by saying that he heard his dead brother’s voice telling him, “Don’t let them do you like they done me.”
After shooting the officers, Hood eluded capture for four days. Immediately after shooting the officers, he carjacked Watkinsville resident Debra Lumpkin and forced her to drive him away from the area. The next day, Hood stopped for food and clothing at the home of a longtime acquaintance, to whom he admitted to having killed Wray.
After leaving that location, Hood made his way to the Creekstone subdivision near Commerce Road where he held10 people hostage while he negotiated his surrender with authorities. While there, one of his captives, Quinton Riden, used a cellphone to secretly record Hood making admissions about shooting the officers and killing Wray.
The jury acquitted Hood of charges he kidnapped those people. However, they found him guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon while in the commission of the crimes of kidnapping and false imprisonment of each of those persons. Hood was also found guilty of carjacking and kidnapping Lumpkin, as well as kidnapping with bodily injury for having abducted Brooks.
Hood's appeal alleged the conviction should be reversed because the prosecution suppressed evidence that Riden had made deal to testify against Hood in return for leniency in a pending federal drug case.
However the Supreme Court justices stated in their ruling that even if Riden had not testified, "there was testimony from six (other) Creekstone witnesses about (Hood's) admissions about Wray's murder...
"Thus, while the full scope of Riden's possible incentives to cooperate with the State was not made known to the jury, the jury was nonetheless aware that there was reason to regard his testimony with skepticism."
The justices concluded their ruling by stating, "We discern no reversible error, so we affirm” (Hood’s) conviction.
Hood’s crimes devastated the lives of three families, those of Wray, who was survived by his mother and three children; Christian, who was survived by this wife, parents and two children, as well as Howard‘s family who saw the officer battle back from being critically injured to becoming fit for duty again.
Athens attorney Brian Patterson, who was acting district attorney for Clarke and Oconee counties when he filed a brief opposing Hood's appeal, said, “My hope is the Supreme Court’s decision will bring some measure of closure to the families and community.”