Will convicted cop killer Jamie Hood spend the rest of his life in prison or die for his crimes?
That’s the next decision for the jury of nine men and three women who, on Wednesday, will begin weighing Hood’s punishment for killing Athens-Clarke County police officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian in March 2011 and public works employee Omar Wray three months earlier.
That jury on Monday convicted Hood on 37 felonies, including shooting Officer Tony Howard, who survived. The defendant was acquitted on 34 felony counts, all involving friends and acquaintances he was accused of kidnapping or holding hostage.
Hood acted as his own attorney, becoming the first defendant to represent himself in a death penalty trial in Georgia.
The verdicts came relatively quickly. Jurors began their deliberations at 10:45 a.m. and had their decisions on all counts by 4:30 p.m.
“After being subjected to this dog and pony show as long as they have been, they were ready to go home,” suggested Michael Mears, who teaches at John Marshall Law School and is not connected to this case.
The jurors, all Elbert County residents, have been sequestered in an Athens motel since they were seated a month ago. Except for the week of July 4, they worked Monday through Saturday. They will remain sequestered until they reach a decision on Hood’s punishment — death, life without the possibility of parole, or the least likely, life with the possibility of parole.
“God’s got it all in control,” Hood’s mother told Channel 2 Action News as she left the courthouse.
In 20 days of trial, the jurors watched as Hood frequently accused District Attorney Ken Mauldin of lying and encouraging witnesses to forget details. Hood also accused Judge Patrick Haggard of participating in a cover up and presiding over a “kangaroo court.”
Hood wanted his case to focus on the 2001 death of his brother, shot by a police officer, and his own 1997 armed robbery conviction, which he said was illegal and kept him from getting any job other than selling drugs.
Less than two years after he was released from prison, Hood shot and killed Omar Wray days after Christmas 2010 when the county works employee refused to tell him where to find a drug dealer.
Then, police said, Hood kidnapped Judon Brooks when he also refused to disclose the dealer’s location. Brooks managed to escaped and call police. Hood shot the police responding to the call.
Investigators identified Hood as Wray’s killer after the police officers were shot when a casing found in Hood’s car matched.
Still, Hood denied he killed Wray, a friend, even as he admitted he killed Christian and wounded Howard. Hood said in his testimony and in his statements to the jury he didn’t intend to shoot Christian, that Christian was simply in the “wrong place at the wrong time.
“I hated killing the man,” Hood said of Christian. “I been telling (people) for years I didn’t mean to do it.”
He said he did not regret shooting Howard, however, because they had a “history” dating back to when Howard worked at the jail and Hood was there on the armed robbery charge
After the shootings, Hood was on the run for four days. He took hostages and called law enforcement to tell them where he was, agreeing to surrender if his arrest covered live on television.
Jurors heard a recording of a 13-year-old girl pleading with a negotiator to help her and eight other hostages in the duplex where Hood held them.
Hood told the jury they weren’t hostages, however. He said they were friends who let him hang out. He said they prayed together, smoked marijuana and talked about trying to get twice the $50,000 reward when he turned himself in.
The jury acquitted Hood on the kidnapping charges
Testifying on his behalf last week, Hood faced the jurors and said, “I’m not here to make excuses.”
“I’m not here for Jamie Hood,” he said. “I’m here for the little kids coming up behind me. It’s got to stop. My mind and my soul are at peace. This punishment I got to take.”
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