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High court reverses Albany gang conviction

Tchywaskie Lamar Jones

Tchywaskie Lamar Jones

ALBANY, Ga. The Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously overturned an Albany man’s conviction on street gang terrorism and aggravated assault charges.

Tchywaskie Lamar Jones is currently serving a sentence for both charges at Hays State Prison.

According to a court spokesperson, the justices found that the evidence was “legally sufficient to sustain the aggravated assault conviction,” but it must be reversed because the judge failed to direct jurors to ignore the prosecutor’s unsupported statement in closing arguments that Jones had been involved in previous gang-related violence.

“Here, the evidence against Jones was not overwhelming, and it was highly prejudicial for the prosecuting attorney to argue that Jones had been involved in a prior gang shooting,” Justice Keith Blackwell writes in Monday’s opinion. “For these reasons, we cannot conclude that the generalized standard instruction given by the trial court was sufficient to cure the prejudice worked by the improper argument of the prosecuting attorney or that the failure of the trial court to do something more was harmless.”

Jones and Dabkowski Luke were each sentenced in December to serve 10 years in prison for their respective roles in shooting at the Carver Pool in 2009. Jerry Lee Harris Jr. was also convicted of shooting Donald Winchester. He was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison.

“Although there was some evidence presented at trial about the existence and activities of the Southside Bloods, the State inexplicably failed to adduce any evidence that Jones was associated with the Southside Bloods or that his commission of an aggravated assault was intended in any way to further the interests of the Southside Bloods,” the 19-page opinion says. “No witness testified that Jones was a member of the Southside Bloods. No witness testified that those accompanying Jones at the time of the shooting were members of the Southside Bloods. No witness testified that Jones was associated in any way with the Southside Bloods.” The state never identified who made the statement about “slob asses” or showed whether Jones had even arrived at the scene when it was made. “Because the evidence, even when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, is insufficient to show that Jones participated in criminal street gang activity while associated with a criminal street gang, his conviction under the Street Gang Act must be reversed,” the opinion says.

Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards said that his office will retry Jones on the aggravated assault charge noting that there is a learning curve on the street gang terrorism statute, saying that it’s often hard to delineate between a person merely being a member of a street gang and whether, as the law requires, proving that a crime was done “in furtherance of the gang.”

“Unless a gang member stands up and yells ‘I’m a member of the Crips and I’m killing you because your a Blood, we have to rely on largely circumstantial evidence to build these gang cases on and then have to depend on a statute that is unsettled,” Edwards said.

The retrial will likely be bumped to the top of the court’s calendar, Edwards said.

“The reason we are going to retry him is because there is sufficient evidence to convict him on the underlying offense and this is the kind of offense we can’t relent to,” Edwards said. “One of the people who were shot was an innocent bystander and we can’t allow street gang violence to go unaddressed. This office will continue to bring gang cases.”

Comments

erock 1 year, 8 months ago

What a slap in the face for theAPD and GTF. You can't be serious. I hope like hell this guys lawyer gets caught in the crossfire of this thugs next shootout. To the judge, heaven forbid he kills someone, the bloods on your hands.

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GeeGee 1 year, 8 months ago

Seems to be the norm anymore. The very least he should be charged with gang activity. He will be back in prison before long because that is the mindset of his type of folk. Begging for a chance to be locked up. But he is a good boy. You can bet your life they came to that pool looking for trouble.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

Proves once again that the police is not the problem with todays crime, it's the judges. They keep sending these thugs back out on the streets to continue their life of crime. The police can only do so much.

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RedEric 1 year, 8 months ago

Correct!! You want to hear frustration, talk to a cop who worked two hours filling paper while the perp is already on the street.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

It's going to get to the point that the police will stop capturing and arresting these criminals. They figure why bother if the judge is just going to send them back out again. It's like going to a free hotel instead of jail.

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rightasrain 1 year, 8 months ago

The solution is simple...really. All the cops need to do when they arrest these thugs is to "allow" the criminal a chance to run. Six words, "Stop, or I'll shoot to kill." Then after the criminal takes another step...he's dead before he hits the ground. 'Nuff said.

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Doc15 1 year, 8 months ago

What a slap in the face Greg Edwards and Matthew Breedon.

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VietVet1 1 year, 8 months ago

Welcome to Albany - the Good Life City.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 8 months ago

Somebody didn't dot all of the i's nor cross all their t's. It's a sad day when the judge lets the Prosecutors get away with these types of antics in court.

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GeeGee 1 year, 8 months ago

He'll be back in town and by next week will be up to his old shenanigans. Be back in jail before the year is over.

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VSU 1 year, 8 months ago

And then right back out of jail the same day.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

The critical element is to listen to Greg Edwards regarding the definition of the law. What we have here is another poorly written law by a bunch of legislatures who know nothing of the application of laws. Keep in mind the reversal was unanimous and essentially it was because the local judge couldn't clean his legal excrement off the floor. The law's intent is absolutely laudable but it has to be clearly phrased so the intent is fulfilled. The two-bit legislators are responsible for the law's definition.

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Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

Its actually pretty well written, and is responsible for sending hundreds of gang members to prison, creating safer streets for all involved. The message here is that the prosecutors and judges need to actually read the law before trying to apply it.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act is a vaguely written law ostensibly designed to add arrows in the prosecutorial quivers to diminish gangs and gang development. If a criminal is convicted and sentenced by a judge he or she goes to jail and serves the time and the act does little to extend the time. The Act is a "public relations tool for Georgia law enforcement, giving citizens a sense that the government is doing something about the state’s gang problem, without generating any real effect." Not my words but I agree. They are from a DeKalb Public Defender. Gangs and so-called gang related activity is unabated and growing. Look at Albany. I would not disagree that judges and prosecutors could become more versed with the law but the legislators have done little to earn praise in the law's development.

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Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

Why don't you quote the opposing position from the prosecutor in the same article? Hmmm, perhaps because it doesn't support your position? Nice try, google boy.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 8 months ago

Exactly, it wasn't the point I hold or didn't you understand that. Now why don't you start showing where the law is working to reduce gang development and violence. The law is poorly written it is just as my point states. I am not like you, in the habit of "making my goal." Obviously in your case it would be shooting yourself in the foot, chump.

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Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

"it wasn't the point I hold"

Really? LOL

"What we have here is another poorly written law.."

It is easy to tell when you have backed yourself into yet another corner of self inflicted nonsense. The juvenile name calling quickly follows. In spite of your inflated ego, and your overvalued opinion of your own intellect, you are wrong sometimes. On those occasions, when you find yourself neck deep, the best option is probably to quit digging.

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