The Union Recorder

November 9, 2012

Baldwin cases upheld in state Supreme Court

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


The Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously affirmed guilty verdicts in two Baldwin County murder cases this week. Tamarkus Lekeith Wright and Bruce Wayne Hargrove's trial convictions relating to separate shooting deaths were upheld Monday.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright said the Supreme Court's unanimous 7-0 ruling was proper in these cases.

“We fell justice is served here. We are extremely pleased with the unanimous decisions,” Bright said.

On appeal, Wright contended that his trial counsel was ineffective, and the trial court erred in allowing improper testimony at trial. 

Following a jury trial in September 2008, Wright was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery and burglary in connection with the robbing and shooting of Joseph Ray in March 2006. 

Based on trial evidence, Wright, Ryan Danrico Simmons and Elliott May went to Ray's home with the intent to rob him. Wright and Simmons kicked in the door to Ray's home, and Wright shot Ray. 

Wright and Simmons ransacked the home, stealing some money and marijuana. 

By the end of the incident, Ray had been shot four times, and he later died from the gunshot wound to the chest.

The trial court sentenced Wright to life imprisonment for malice murder and armed robbery, and 20 consecutive years for burglary. 

Justice Harold Melton's decision stated “the evidence was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find Wright guilty of all of the crimes for which he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hargrove was convicted of malice murder in connection with the shooting death of Antonio Jamel Jordan on Jan. 7, 1999, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal after his motion for a new trial was denied, Hargrove claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict, that the State failed to prove venue, and that his due process rights were violated by the 12-year delay between his conviction and appeal, according to Presiding Justice Hugh Thompson's opinion.

The original trial commenced on Sept. 7, 1999, and on Sept. 10, a jury found Hargrove guilty. 

The victim was a confidential informant for the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, who made a “controlled buy of cocaine” from Hargrove. Later, Hargrove was arrested and pled guilty to the drug charge in federal court.

Following his arrest, he told several witnesses that he knew the victim had “snitched” on him, that he “had something” for the snitch, according to the trial evidence.

Hargrove traveled to Milledgeville with his nephew and two others looking for the victim. The victim was fatally shot and left for dead near some remote Dumpsters in Baldwin County.


Click here to subscribe to The Union-Recorder print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Union-Recorder e-edition and view this full article.