Jury Begins Deliberating

Closing arguments wrapped up today in the Chatham County Courthouse.
Closing arguments wrapped up today in the Chatham County Courthouse.

Michael Thorpe, Webster Wilson and Kevin Huckabee are facing life in prison for murder. It's up to the jury to decide their guilt or innocence. Final arguments in the case wrapped up about 4:30pm and the judge began instructing the jury.

As of this evening, the jury is in deliberation.

During final arguments, Wilson's attorney Brian Daly got emotional with the jury.

"I am terrified, I am so terrified I may cry," he told jurors. "I'm terrified my representation may be deficient." He said he worried about Wilson.

Prosecutor Christy Barker told jurors all three men are equally responsible for murdering Jennifer Ross in Orleans Square.

"In order to be a party to a crime, you have to know the crime is occurring and help with the commission of the crime," she said. She told jurors Huckabee knew they were going out robbing people. Wilson clearly knew, she said, because he got out of the car and hit Brett Finley in the head.

Barker reminded the jury that many of the witnesses testified they heard Michael Thorpe brag about the shooting and tell them he shot Ross because she bucked. Barker said Ross did nothing to Thorpe but say no to the robbery attempt and run away and she was shot in the back.

The prosecution's star witness is Sean Thorpe, Michael Thorpe's uncle. He testified he was with the trio the night of the crime. Defense attorney Richard Darden reminded the jury he got immunity for his testimony.

"We have a murderer in this case," said Darden. "He's already walked out the front door. Based on his testimony, they want you to take [the defendants] out the back door."

Prosecutor Barker sees it another way. She agrees Sean Thorpe is guilty of murder since he was party to the crime; so if he's guilty, she told jurors, all three of the defendants are guilty of murder.

Darden says the biggest reasonable doubt in this case is that one of the eyewitnesses told police two white men and a black man were the muggers, but the defendants are all black.

"You heard a witness say there was a white man involved, he said it time and time again," Darden said. "Where is the white piece of this puzzle? You should be offended by this, the whole way this case was handled."

The prosecutor said Brett Finley, Ross' friend who was pistol whipped, told police there were three black men. What did Ross see? Barker reminded jurors that medical personnel who treated Ross testified she told her doctors it was a black man who shot her.

None of the defense attorneys provided an alibi for Thorpe, Wilson and Huckabee. Huckabee's attorney asked the jury whether they remembered precisely where they were and what they were doing last Christmas Eve at 3am.

Defense attorneys told the jury they don't have to prove their clients' innocence, since the burden is on the state to prove their guilt.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com