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Judge denies Athens cop killer's motion for new trial

Updated: May 8, 2020

Jamie Donnell Hood

By Joe Johnson

A Western Judicial Circuit judge recently denied convicted Athens cop-killer Jamie Hood’s motion for a new trial.

The ruling was issued April 29 by Judge H. Patrick Haggard, who nearly five years earlier presided over a trial in which Hood was convicted on 36 counts of a 70-count indictment and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A hearing on the motion was held in January in Clarke County Superior Court.

Judge H. Patrick Haggard

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 Haggard during the monthlong trial in the summer of 2015.

Hood, who acted as his own attorney during his trial, was the only witness to testify at the 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 his recent ruling. Haggart stated that “neither during the trial nor during Defendant's testimony at the motion for a new trial did he ever describe the body language.“

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.

Kenneth Omari Wray

On March 22, 2011, Hood abducted another dealer, Judon Brooks, 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 Senior Police Officer Elmer Bosco "Buddy" Christian III
Athens-Clarke County police Sgt. Tony Howard

During the four days Hood spent on the run, he carjacked a vehicle driven by Watkinsville resident Deborah Lumpkin, 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, attempting to murder Howard, and kidnaping the woman whom he carjacked.

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 during the January hearing 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 illness.

Hood also claimed the trial was tainted because Haggard failed to instruct jurors that they could consider Hood’s claim of justification in committing his crimes because his dead brother’s words “overmastered his will to resist committing” the crimes,

Haggard noted in his ruling that Hood never asked for a delusional compulsion instruction to the jury, nor did his standby professional defense attorneys.

Other grounds for a new trial claimed by Hood included a claim that his conviction was contrary to the evidence presented during his trial.

Haggard disagreed in his ruling.

“The evidence supporting the convictions for the counts related to the murder of Officer Christian, Mr. Wray, the kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated assault of Mr., Brooks, and the kidnapping of Ms. Lumpkin consisted of Defendant’s multiple admissions to the crimes, the testimony of those who heard Defendant’s admissions, the testimony of the surviving victims, other witnesses and various forms of physical evidence,” the judge wrote in his April 29 ruling. “Given the overwhelming evidence of guilt for these crimes, this case is not an exceptional one warranting the trial court to act as a thirteenth juror. The general grounds do not provide a basis for granting Defendant a new trial.”

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