Updated: Jan 30, 2020
By Joe Johnson
Convicted Athens cop-killer Jamie Hood was back Wednesday in Clarke County Superior Court where four and a half years earlier he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He was returned from Georgia State Prison in Reidsville for a hearing on his motion for a new trial.
Attorneys from the Georgia Public Defender Council argued during the three-hour hearing that Hood must be granted a new trial on several grounds of reversible error by Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge H. Patrick, Haggard, who presided over Hood’s monthlong trial in the summer of 2015.
Hood, who acted as his own attorney during his trial, was the only witness to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.
Much of Hood’s testimony focused on allegations that Haggard showed bias toward Hood through body language and facial expressions “amounting to comments on the evidence."
Hood's attorneys argued in the motion, “Because (Hood) objected, the Court committed reversible error by failing to give a limiting instruction to the jury or declaring a mistrial.”
From the witness stand, Hood told Haggard, ”There was multiple occasions I felt the way you speaking and acting to me, the jury was looking at you.”
He added, ”My thing was I didn’t think it was fair that I got treated in a tone and manner different from the prosecution.”
In the 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 and county employee 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.
During the four days Hood spent on the run, he carjacked a vehicle driven by a Watkinsville woman, then hid out in the woods of rural northeast Athens and other areas. The spree ended at a home on Creekwood Drive, where prosecutors said Hood held 10 men, women and children hostage before negotiating his surrender on live TV.
A sequestered jury that was selected from Elbert County found Hood 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.
Defense attorneys Christina Cribbs and Michael Tarleton argued that Haggard abused his discretion during the trial when he withdrew the appointment of a psychiatrist and failed to appoint a different expert to assist in Hood’s defense.
A recurring theme in the trial was the 2001 death of Hood’s older brother.
Timothy Hood, 22, was killed by an Athens-Clarke County police officer during an altercation in which he placed a gun to the officer's head, but the officer was able to wrestle it from Hood and fatally shoot him.
During the trial, Hood justified his shootings of Christian and Howard by saying he heard his dead brother’s voice telling him, “Don’t let them do you like they done me.”
Mauldin argued that prior to trial, state doctors who examined Hood deemed him competent to stand trial and that an expert witness in psychiatry was not required because Hood’s defense was based on “justification” rather than mental illnes.
Attorneys said they expected Haggard to issue his ruling on the motion for a new trial in several weeks.