Edwards found guilty on both counts

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 19, 2005

GREENSBORO-After hearing closing arguments in the murder trial of Johnny Edwards the jury needed less than an hour to return a verdict of guilty on both counts. Edwards will now be sentenced at a future date for murder and first degree assault. The assault charge was reduced prior to Thursday’s arguments from second degree assault.

Edwards was on trial for the Nov. 2002 murder of Nathaniel Jeffries and the shooting of Hardee Joe Davis after a confrontation at a Greensboro club. Following the altercation Edwards was said to have tracked Davis and Jeffries down and fired on them with a shotgun and pistol.

Prosecuting attorney Barrown Lankster said the verdict was long overdue. He said the people of Hale County could breath a sigh of relief knowing there was one less criminal running loose.

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“This day has been a long time coming,” Lankster said. “I think that what this means is there is one less criminal on the streets in Hale County.”

Lankster said for the past two years the family of Nathaniel Davis has waited for justice to prevail.

“The family has been waiting for justice,” Lankster said. “The community has been screaming for justice and I think that is what we have here today.”

Lankster also thanked those who had helped with the case. He said it was an enjoyable experience to know justice had been served and thanked those who assisted the prosecution team.

“I have personally enjoyed prosecuting this case with Mickey Avery, an experienced attorney,” Lankster said. “I would like to thank District Attorney Michael Jackson for giving us the opportunity to be involved in this case.”

Since taking the office of District Attorney Michael Jackson has made it clear he would not tolerate violent crimes in his district. Jackson said they intended to send a message this behavior would not be acceptable.

“We want people to understand that this is not the wild, wild west,” Jackson said. “If you shoot somebody you are going to be shipped off to prison.”

Prior to the verdict each side was given 45 minutes to plea their case once more before the jury. Mickey Avery took the floor for the prosecution reminding them Edwards was being given a day in court, something the deceased was not.

“Johnny Edwards had to have justice his way,” Avery said. “He had to have justice on his terms. He had to go looking for him (Jeffries).”

Avery compared Edward’s persistence that night to being “like a hunter stalking wild game.”

Avery argued Edwards intent was never in doubt because of the weapons he used. He said the fact that Edwards used a 12 gauge loaded with buckshot and a .45 he had no intentions of letting Jeffries and Hardee Joe Davis walk away from the scene.

He also pointed out the fact that Edwards cousin, Lamont Tinker, who had been living with him and provided one of the firearms testified against Edwards.

Defense attorney Joel Sogol said there were two issues that should place reasonable doubt in the jury. The first was the fact that there was more than one man involved in the crime, but only one was on trial.

“They came to you and said five men went out hunting,” Sogol said. “If this were the case they should all have been charged, but instead only one person was charged. Why?”

Sogol also said any testimony from Tinker could not be believed because of his conflicting stories. Sogol said Tinker had lied about writing a letter to Edwards telling him the police had offered him a deal if he placed the blame solely on Edwards. Tinker then denied writing the letter. Sogol asked the jury to consider Tinker’s loose testimony when arriving at a verdict.

“I submit to you there is nothing about Mr. Tinker’s testimony that is true,” Sogol said. “I submit to you Mr. Tinker is what he says he is. He is a liar and he will do whatever he needs to do to save himself.”

Sogol also pointed out the law regarding presumption of innocence. He told the jury it was their duty to believe the defendant was not guilty until the state had proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. Sogol said unless the jury could say with no doubt Edwards was indeed the man who pulled the trigger and had intended to kill they would have to find Edwards innocent.

In the end the testimony and arguments from the prosecution convinced the jury to find Edwards guilty on both charges.

Edwards will remain in custody with no bond until his sentencing, which may come in October.