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Convicted Athens cop killer seeks removal of judge from his bid for new trial

Jamie Hood

By Joe Johnson

Convicted Athens cop killer Jamie Hood is moving forward in his bid for a new trial by seeking the removal from his case the judge who presided over his monthlong trial in 2015.

In a motion filed Friday in Clarke County Superior Court, Hood’s attorneys argue that their client observed and noted for the record “numerous facial gestures and instances of body language (by Western Judicial Circuit Judge H. Patrick Haggard) visible to the jury which were prejudicial to Mr. Hood and indicated a bias or opinion to the jury about the case.”

The motion requests Haggard’s disqualification and recusal from Hood’s case.

Western Judicial Circuit Judge H. Patrick Haggard

Hood’s attorneys requested that a new judge be appointed to decide the motion because Haggard could be called as a witness.

The late Athens-Clarke County Senior Police Officer Elmer "Buiddy" Christian III

The attorneys refer in the motion to recordings that they said supported Hood’s claim of bias.

The trial drew wide media interest and a television camera was in court each day of the trial to provide a press pool video feed.

In that trial, Hood was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for a three-month crime spree that began in December 2010, when he shot and killed Knottingham Drive resident Kenneth Omari Wray in what authorities described as Hood’s falling out with local drug dealers.

On March 22, 2011, Hood abducted another dealer, who was Wray’s best friend, with the intent to kill him, but the victim escaped from the trunk of Hood’s car when it stopped for a red light, according to trial testimony.

When police located Hood later that day, he shot and seriously wounded Sgt. Tony Howard during a traffic stop and then fatally shot Senior Police Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian III, who witnessed the shooting from in his patrol vehicle nearby.

Athens-Clarke County police Sgt. Tony Howard

During four days Hood spent on the run, he carjacked a vehicle driven by a Watkinsville woman. The spree ended on Creekwood Drive, where prosecutors said Hood held 10 men, women and children hostage before negotiating his surrender on live TV.

Following the trial before a sequestered jury that was selected from Elbert County, Hood was found guilty of murdering Christian and Wray and attempting to murder Howard.

In all, jurors convicted Hood on 36 counts of a 70-count indictment.

Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin had sought the death penalty, but jurors opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kenneth Omari Wray

Hood filed a boilerplate motion for a new trial a month after his conviction. The motion stated a new trial was sought on the generic grounds that the verdict was “contrary” to the law and evidence.

In the meantime, Hood’s attorneys obtained trial transcripts to craft an amended motion with specific reasons why they believed a new trial was required, according to Mauldin.

The amended motion was filed Friday in Clarke County Superior Court.

A hearing on the motion to have Haggard removed from the case was scheduled for Nov. 22.

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