After more then five hours of deliberation that stretched into two days, a jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision in the murder case against 19-year-old Jamaall Pridgett, resulting in a mistrial Thursday afternoon.
Pridgett was charged with shooting and robbing four men while they were engaged in a dice game at his home on West Street on Oct. 7, 2008. One of those men, 19-year-old Jerome "Cardell" Glover, died from his injuries two days later.
"This case is going to be about the ultimate act of betrayal of one's friends," said Assistant District Attorney Clint C. Malcolm. "Betrayal at the hands of Jamaall Pridgett carried out at the end of a .22 caliber handgun."
The defense argued that Pridgett shot all four of the men out of self-defense.
"I'm not at any point going to be claiming Jamaall Pridgett didn't fire those shots," said chief public defender Terri Smith. "He did. But what you as jurors need to figure out is why and how. He was attacked, he was outnumbered and he reacted out of fear."
The prosecution brought forth three men that were injured in the shooting to tell the jury their version of what happened that night.
The first victim, 29-year-old Tavorris "T-Rock" Shy, testified that he was at the home shooting dice when he glanced up, saw Pridgett shoot one victim in the head, then yell for everyone to "get down." Although he told jurors that he did as he was told, he was still shot. A .22 bullet went through his finger - which he had covering the back of his head - and into his head; another bullet hit his chest and yet another hit his side.
Shy ran from the home and called 911. He can be heard on the tape breathing heavily and speaking almost groggily to dispatch operators. Officers from the Covington Police Department testified that when they arrived they found him in the area of the railroad tracks on West Street heading toward U.S. Highway 278. When he saw them he allegedly collapsed in front of their patrol vehicles but was able to identify Pridgett as the person who had shot him.
As the tape played several people in the courtroom cried quietly.
Sedarius "Ronte" Stephens, 23, gave a similar story about the men playing dice at Pridgett's apartment when Pridgett suddenly turned on them. He was shot in the hand and the left side of the chest and told jurors that Pridgett shot "until the clip ended."
The third victim, 18-year-old Martec "Pumpkin" Barkley, said that he was on his knees shooting dice when he heard Pridgett say "Bet P," and the next thing he remembered was a loud ringing "like a bell" before blacking out. When he came to he told jurors that he once again heard Pridgett, this time saying to Shy "T-Rock, there ain't no sense in running now, you about to die."
Chase Clemmons, Pridgett's girlfriend at the time of the shooting, admitted that she was in the house when it happened but not in the room and that she went with Pridgett to his mother's house afterward and drove him to his uncle's house where he was later arrested.
Several hours after the shooting, she admitted to telling CPD Capt. Craig Treadwell that she was scared of Pridgett and her actions that night were all fueled by that. But on the stand she had to refer to her testimony several times and at one point had to be reprimanded by the judge.
After dismissing the jury Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton rounded on Clemmons, slamming his hand on the bench and yelling.
"You swore to tell the truth here today, didn't you? Do you know what perjury is?" he continued. "It's lying under oath. Now I want you to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Don't get up here and tell half the story or the opposite of what you said in that [transcript]... We're here for the truth and nothing but the truth."
Officer Justin Blankenship testified that after he arrived at the home and went inside to clear it he noticed a pair of Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, later determined to belong to Jerome Glover, poking out of the kitchen area, the feet inside kicking and moving about. Knowing there was at least one gunshot victim at this point, Blankenship said he drew his weapon and kept instructing the wearer to show his hands.
"It sounded like he was crying," he said. "He was trying to comply but he couldn't. His hands were flopping on his chest. He just kept repeating ‘I can't, I'm dying. I think I'm dying.'"
Once again, Glover's family began to cry as Blankenship described the area Glover was found in and his wounds. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Eisenstat who later performed his autopsy, Glover was shot once in the head, twice in the right arm and twice in the torso. The combination of his head wound and one of the chest wounds proved lethal.
"I asked him what was wrong and he said he'd been shot in the head and chest. He said something to the effect of ‘Jamaall Pridgett did this to me.'" said Blankenship. "He kept trying to get up but his body just wouldn't let him. He was just fighting it really bad."
Pridgett took the stand Wednesday afternoon. He told jurors about the men who were shot and the one who was killed. He also explained neighborhood alliances, and testified that while he knew Shy, Stephens, Glover and Barkley, they were all closer to one another then they were with him.
He also talked candidly about his day leading up to the shooting at his apartment on West Street. He said that around 11 a.m., he, Glover and Barkley were in the yard of his home "kicking it," and that there were no problems between any of them. When asked to describe what "kicking it" meant, Pridgett explained that they had been selling drugs, specifically cocaine, out of the front yard, while talking with one another. All of the other men had testified there was no drug activity going on that day.
"That's what we did daily," he said. "Whenever someone rolls up they roll up... We were basically just being patient waiting on the next person."
Also that day he testified that he had purchased drugs from Stephens at a discounted price in order to re-sell them himself. He explained that it was common for them to do that, if one person had a lot of cocaine and the others were running low, they would sell to one another at a lower price. He also admitted to having been involved with selling drugs since the age of 14.
Later that day, a woman who was a regular client of Pridgett's and who he had sold drugs to earlier in the day, came back to his home, and wanted her money back. She accused him of selling her fake drugs and according to Pridgett's testimony they were from the drugs he had purchased from Stephens earlier that day. An argument erupted over the drugs with one person blaming the other for the bad drugs.
At one point Pridgett said that Barkley made the comment to him that he was going to kill him and in the next moment he said he saw Stephens make a throat cutting sign and Glover lunged at him. He said he swung at Glover but that he came back at him which is when he went for the gun he had tucked into the waist of his pants.
"When I pulled my gun out it was panic and fear and I was just thinking I had to make it out of there alive," said Pridgett. "I wouldn't say I was trying to kill them, I was scared, and I was trying to defend myself."
He denied taking anyone's money and said that he ran out of fear and went to his uncle's house where he could find comfort.
When asked if Barkley was lying when he said that Pridgett walked up to him unprovoked and shot him in the head Pridgett was slow to answer.
"So you didn't just walk up to him [Barkley] and shoot him in the head?" asked Malcolm.
"No," said Pridgett.
"So everyone who said that is lying?" Malcolm said.
"I can't say if they are or not," replied Pridgett.
"Well, yes you can," Malcolm argued. "Because either they're lying or you are."
"They're lying," Pridgett said.
When asked why he didn't call for help when he saw that Glover was injured and unable to get up he said that when he last saw Glover he was sitting up and cussing and that he fled because he was still in fear for his life from Stephens and Shy who had ran from the house.
"You had no concern or compassion for him to call someone to help him because he was going to die?" asked Malcolm.
"No sir," answered Pridgett, who explained that while he wasn't physically "I was still hurting. Mentally on the inside I was hurting."
During closing arguments, Smith told the jury that the reason all of the victims in the case were lying was because they had reason to. Most had criminal histories and were on probation at the time. Admitting to having drugs and guns would have surly been a violation of their probations and could possibly send them back to jail.
"I'm not saying these guys deserve to be shot but it's easy to see why they would be lying," said Smith. "They may all be family but they are family with divided loyalties and if things go down they are going to be with Gronte [Stephens]. It's a fact of Jamaall's life; it's a fact of all of their lives... We all know that there are communities in our neighborhood that are like war zones. In West Street it's like that."
What makes sense in this case is what the evidence, the overwhelming evidence, shows. That Mr. Pridgett came into that room and attacked three unsuspecting individuals," countered Malcolm in his closing remarks.
"...Mr. Glover never had the opportunity to get off the floor. He was murdered in cold blood and laid there and bled out all over that kitchen floor. A 19-year-old man whose life was cut tragically short because of Mr. Pridgett's rage and his opportunistic greed, he wanted money and he took money through violence and through gunshots.
"You don't just shoot once you don't just shoot twice you shoot everybody until the gun goes click, click. Then you leave someone you consider a family member to die on a kitchen floor..."
As Malcolm continued his closing, Glover's mother began to cry and then, as pictures of a blood-smeared freezer where her son had fallen were shown, began to sob in earnest. She was led from the court screaming "my baby!" as Pridgett's mother put her face in her hands and cried silently.
"I ask you when you go back into the jury room that you think about Mr. Glover and you think about the three other men who were shot and robbed on that evening," said Malcolm. "Unsuspected by someone they trusted and thought to be a friend. Think about them; think about the victims in this case. The defendant has to be held accountable. It's your job to hold him responsible. Think of the young men who testified however you want to. Like them, dislike them, it doesn't matter, it only matters if they were telling the truth."
In the end, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The judge asked if more time would help them decide and they unanimously agreed that they were deadlocked. Pridgett was returned to the Newton County Detention Center and will remain there until a date can be set for a new trial. a