Jamie Hood sentence: multiple life without plus 150 years in prison

Jamie Hood cried in relief while the widow of the police officer he murdered sat nearby dabbing her own tears at learning Hood was sentenced to life without parole rather than death.

The nine men and three women who convicted Hood on Monday on 36 felony counts, including murdering Athens-Clarke County police officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian and another man, took little more than an hour and 45 minutes Friday to decide he should not get the death penalty.

In total, Judge Patrick Haggard sentenced Hood to four sentences of life without parole to be served consecutively, followed by a sentence of life with the possibility of parole and 150 years in prison.

As the jury’s recommendation was read, Hood was visibly trying to control his tears and nodded “thank you” several times.

While Christian’s widow, Melissa Christian-Griffeth, dabbed her eyes, the mother of the other man Hood murdered, Omar Wray, showed no reaction.

Haggard said he usually sums up his feeling for each case and the impact on the community before he pronounces a sentence, but in this case he couldn’t find the words.

“I cannot think of anything I can say,” Haggard said. “There is no way to bring that into a five- or 10-minute segment. I think the acts, tragedies, the impact on these families is going to last for generations. Their lives are changed for generations.”

Hood responded, “I understand.”

The judge continued: “I’ve sat up here in my courtroom day after day and hear about marijuana cases that are just a little marijuana and that sort of thing. I will always remember the series of events in this case started with a little marijuana. I’ll never forget that.”

The sentence is not necessarily an end to an emotional, unique case.

Hood was the first capital defendant in Georgia to represent himself in a death penalty trial. And he told Haggard after his sentencing that he had not decided if he wanted an appointed attorney to handle his appeals. Even though he admitted to shooting the two officers, including killing Christian, he maintained that the shootings were “justified” and that he did not kill Wray.

Though they happened three months apart, the murders of Wray and Christian was tried together because of a bullet casing found in Hood’s car that matched one used to kill Wray Dec. 28, 2010. Police say Hood killed Wray because he wouldn’t tell him where to find a certain drug dealer.

Wray’s mother Ruby Jordan thanked the prosecutor, the jury and the witnesses. “My grandchildren and I will continue to heal from this tragic event with the love and prayers of friends, family and the community.”

It was his search for that same pot dealer that triggered the March crimes spree. Police were looking for Hood because he had kidnapped a man who refused tell Hood where to find the dealer.

Hood denied he killed Wray. Yet he always admitted he shot Christian and Howard. He blamed Howard for Christian’s death, saying they had “bad history” from the time he was in jail on a then-armed robbery charge. Hood said he was sorry he killed Christian.

Hood argued he shot the officers because they would kill him much like his younger brother Timothy, who died in 2001 in a struggle with another police officer.

In a statement, Christian’s widow said the family believes “justice was delivered.”

“But this process of obtaining justice is not complete,” she wrote. “A trial verdict and sentence are not the final goal. …This is just one part of a heinous criminal tragedy that will forever be a part of our lives. Now we will wait to see the outcome of (Hood’s) appeals…. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.”

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