After a bizarre four-week trial, it took an Elbert County jury less than a day to convict Jamie Hood on charges of murdering Athens-Clarke County police officer Buddy Christian and local resident Kenneth Omari Wray in 2011, as well as attempting to murder ACCPD Officer Tony Howard.
But the jury found Hood not guilty on charges of kidnapping Judon Brooks and falsely imprisoning an East Athens family while on the run from authorities after shooting Christian and Howard. He was found guilty of robbing Brooks, though.
Hood shot and killed Wray after Wray refused to tell him where he could find a drug dealer Hood had met in prison who’d cut Hood off from his supply.
Prosecutors alleged that, in an effort to find the same drug dealer, Hood ambushed Brooks and threw him into the trunk of a car, intending to drive to Atlanta and kill Brooks.
Brooks escaped at a red light on Lexington Road, according to authorities. Hood tried to flee in an SUV driven by his brother. Howard stopped the truck on Sycamore Drive, and Hood got out and shot Howard in the face and shoulder. He then shot Christian, who’d also pulled up at the scene.
Hood then hid out in the woods for four days before (prosecutors alleged but failed to prove) he took a family hostage in a house off Commerce Road while he negotiated his surrender on live television because he feared police would kill him as they’d killed one of his brothers (who, according to police, had held a gun to an officer’s head). Hood said the “hostages” were really friends.
Hood has admitted shooting Christian and Hood several times. He expressed remorse for killing Christian but tried to justify his shooting of Howard, saying that Howard had beaten him while he was a sheriff’s deputy at the Clarke County Jail after Hood caught him having an affair. (Hood served 12 years for robbing a pizza delivery man in 1997.)
Hood adamantly denied killing Wray, claiming that he’d been carjacked by a group of men who also shot Wray, but an associate secretly taped him confessing to the crime.
Hood fired two legal teams because they wanted to mount an insanity defense, and he represented himself during the trial. That put him in the strange position of interrogating Howard and other law enforcement officials, and his erratic behavior drew a number of objections from the prosecution and rebukes from the judge.
Hood also convinced two judges to recuse themselves because they were friendly with Howard and wanted to avoid any potential grounds for appeal. Judge Patrick Haggard presided over the trial, although Hood also claimed Haggard couldn’t be impartial because his father was killed by a black man—a charge Haggard dismissed.
The trial was held in Clarke County over the objections of both sides—District Attorney Ken Mauldin asked to move it to Gainesville, while Hood wanted it held in Dekalb or Fulton County—but an Elbert County jury was brought in and sequestered. There was some difficulty with jury selection because so many people in Elbert County had heard about the crime spree, and two jurors eventually excused themselves because they were convinced of Hood’s guilt.
Mauldin is seeking the death penalty, and now that the verdict is in, a separate sentencing hearing will be held to decide Hood’s fate. An appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court is automatic in death-penalty cases.