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Posted: September 16, 2010 7:25 p.m.

Pridgett guilty on all counts

To be sentenced Tuesday

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Jamaal Marquez Pridgett

It took a Newton County jury just two-and-a-half hours to convict 20-year-old Jamaal Marquez Pridgett for the Oct. 7, 2008, murder of one man, and the aggravated assault of three others, Thursday afternoon.

The case, which began Tuesday morning in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton, centered around a dice game that turned deadly in a home on West Street. Pridgett claimed self-defense, saying he did shoot Glover, 18-year-old Martec "Pumpkin" Barkley, 30-year-old Tavorris "T-Rock" Shy and 23-year-old Sedarius "Ronte" Stephens, but he did so out of fear for his own life. The prosecution argued that the shooting happened because Pridgett wanted to rob the other men.

Testimony ended Wednesday with Pridgett taking the stand to try and convince jurors that he opened fire in the West Street house in a fight for his life. Pridgett said that he was threatened verbally by Barkley and that Stephens had made a "cutthroat" sign right before Glover charged him. It was at that point, Pridgett said, that he opened fire, shooting his .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun until it was empty. Glover died from his wounds.

"I was raised in the street, man," said Pridgett under cross-examination from Assistant District Attorney Clint C. Malcolm. "I wasn't raised how you was raised. Cutthroat is a street sign."

"You think that gives you the right to open fire on your friends?" questioned Malcolm.

"Does it give my friends a right to say that they are gonna kill me? It's my life too," argued Pridgett. "...I'm not no killer. I done got into fights, but I'm not no killer. I'd never killed anyone before," he said.

"Well you made up for it that day," countered Malcolm.

Thursday morning began with closing arguments from both Malcolm and Pridgett's defense attorney Teri Smith, who attacked each victim's credibility, reminding jurors that both Stephens and Shy had criminal backgrounds.

"Nothing about the state's theory makes sense..." she said. "Three lying men do not trump one guy that is telling the truth... you get that [the state's] theory from two convicted drug dealers and a kid with crack in his pocket... They've got cash, they've got drugs and believe me they've got guns... this is their life. It's not as shocking to them as it is to us...

"It is tragic and regretful that Mr. Glover is no longer with us and that these other men were injured..." continued Smith. "But just because you have a scar from a bullet doesn't mean you get to come in to court and not tell the truth... It [the shooting] was a blind action out of fear..."

Malcolm encouraged the jurors to not let sympathy for Pridgett cloud their judgment.

"Do not feel sorry for Mr. Pridgett. Think about Jerome Glover who despite what the defense would like you to believe was a young man in the prime of his life who had not done anything wrong... Think about these three men who were shot and the scars they will carry the rest of their lives. It's not important what background they come from or what they've done in their lives. What's important is what happened in that house that night," he said.

"Since the defense has no case, they want you to focus on those guys as being ‘bad guys'... But what does that have to do with what happened in that living room that night? Nothing whatsoever," continued Malcolm.

"Just because they grew up in a bad neighborhood, a lower class neighborhood, a different neighborhood than probably all of us grew up in, doesn't mean they are bad people and it doesn't mean they are liars... Who has motivation to lie?" he asked the jury. "He," said Malcolm, pointing at Pridgett, "has every motivation to make up this great story because he felt threatened.... think about the evidence and the testimony you heard. There was no evidence that anybody else in that apartment - with the exception of Mr. Pridgett - had a gun."

The jury granted Malcolm's wish and convicted Pridgett of one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, four counts of armed robbery, four counts of aggravated assault and nine counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Sept. 21, in Benton's courtroom.

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