Ward found guilty

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Eddie Ward was found guilty of the murder of Stephen Bradley Arrington Saturday night, but he will not face the death penalty.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty for the murder, but not guilty of capital murder.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he hoped the guilty verdict would be a lesson to people who commit violent crimes in Hale County.

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“We are going to make sure murderers are shipped off to prison,” Lankster said. “We are going to make sure Hale County is the last place people will want to commit murder.”

Though Ward was not found guilty of capital murder, Barrown Lankster, who prosecuted the case, said he felt all parties were pleased with the verdict.

“I think the law enforcement, and the family are satisfied,” Lankster said. “With this conviction, there is no doubt that a very dangerous person has been taken off the streets in Greensboro.”

Ward, Lankster said, was so confidant he would be found innocent he did not take the stand. Lankster said Ward never showed an interest in entering a guilty plea because other suspects in the case left reasonable doubt.

“In my opinion, the defendant was so confident he would have been found innocent, that hew as not interested in pleading guilty,” Lankster said. “One reason I think he wanted to take the case to trial is because no one saw him do it. I also think he wanted to take it to court because the other suspects had checkered pasts.”

Lankster said the jury makeup also gave Ward and his defense team a false sense of security. The jury was made up of none black members and three white member.

“In the Black Belt, sometimes people look at the racial composition of a jury and think it will indicate the action they will take,” Lankster said. “I don’t feel the racial makeup of the jury is indicitive of the action they will take. I feel the jury came back with a verdict consistent with the evidence in the case.”

In the end, Lankster said, there were key pieces of evidence that left no doubt for the jury Ward was responsible.

“One thing we pointed out to the jury is that the victim was found two blocks from his (Ward’s) mothers house where he was staying,” Lankster said. “His wallet was also found about 500 yards from her place.”

The night of the murder, Ward asked Arrington for a ride home from the Greensboro Texaco. In the beginning, there were two other men in the car as well. However, later Ward was seen driving the truck, a 1999 Ford F-150, alone recklessly.

Witnesses said when Ward was asked about the truck he replied “the person who owns the truck isn’t worried about it. Why are you?” Ward was also seen at the apartment complex wearing gloves, even though it was a warm night.

Sometime between 3 and 3:30 a.m. Ward crashed the truck on his way to Newbern at the Intersection of County Roads 61 and 10. Ward then thumbed a ride, where he was said to have a gun and money. Lankster said this was a key moment in the case. Ward also told the people who picked him up Arrington “had to take one to the dome for these three g’s.”

The money, Lankster said, was a key to linking Ward to the murder.

“It was really big in our case when they said he had money,” Lankster said. “When he went to the club he had to borrow money from his sister to get in and had to borrow money for beer.”

Another important issue in the case, Lankster said, was the fact that a Tuscaloosa News carrier two blocks from Ward’s mother’s house discovered Arrington’s body. Arrington’s wallet was also found about 500 yards from the house. Arrington had been shot in the back and in the head.

Both the ABI and FBI were called into to help with the investigation because Ward was also a suspect in a bank robbery in the Thomaston, Uniontown area. Lankster said Ward’s mother contacted the police and said her son wanted to turn himself in about a month after the murder.

Ward was questioned twice about the murder and did not confess the first time, but the second time he was questioned he told authorities no one knew what happened to Arrington, except me and God.”

Lankster said because of the evidence in the case, it was one of the most difficult of his career.

“It was one of the most difficult cases I have prosecuted in 31 years,” Lankster said. “I have never prosecuted a case with so many pitfalls because the evidence was all circumstantial. The defense also did a great job.”