Gang members bent on retaliation after an argument at a high school football game went in search of their prey. They found instead three innocent teenagers on a curb and opened fire, killing one of them.
But one of the men convicted for the crime, Mr. Jerome Burgess, argued that there was no evidence the incident was gang-related or that he was a member of the gang.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously rejected his arguments and upheld his murder conviction and life sentence in the drive-by shooting of 16-year-old Dana Varner, according to court’s opinion.
The following details on the 2008 Clayton County shooting were obtained from the opinion:
On Oct. 25, 19-year-old Burgess, whose street name was “Oops,” and a number of other young men, including M. Andre “Hot Deezy” Weems, got into an argument with another gang in the parking lot at Tara Stadium after a football game.
When they were about to get into a fight, several officers assigned to monitor the crowd, stopped them.
One group left in a white Navigator. The other group left in a blue Ford Expedition, driven by Mr. Burgess and occupied by Mr. Weems, Mr. Jessie Morrison, Mr. Davion “Duke” Hayes and others.
Mr. Weems and Mr. Morrison later testified at trial that they were all members of the “M.U.R.K. Mob” gang and they “got into it” with members of the “220” gang. But their main target was the gang leader known as “N.O.”
The group drove to Mr. Morrison’s house where Mr. Weems got an assault rifle and put it in the trunk of a second car.
When they got to N.O.’s neighborhood, Mr. Burgess parked on a hill and turned off his lights. They had stopped one street over from the gang leader’s house.
“Sitting on the curb down the hill were high school students Annisa Johnson, Sankeytoe Dunn and 16-year-old Dana Varner,” according to court documents.
“They had not gone to the game earlier and did not know the occupants of the truck when suddenly they saw flashing lights as the vehicle sped towards them.
“Weems shot at them with the semi-automatic,” according to the court documents. “Johnson and Dunn ran, but Varner was killed by a single gunshot wound to the torso.”
Mr. Hayes later testified that “they rode by N.O.’s house but didn’t see him. So [Weems] just shot who he seen outside.”
According to Mr. Hayes, Mr. Weems said, “I got to do it to get my stripes, right?” He testified that they assumed the three teenagers would be members of 220.
In October 2010, a jury convicted Mr. Burgess as a party to the crime of felony murder, six counts of aggravated assault and the weapons charge and he was sentenced to life in prison.
On appeal to the state Supreme Court, Mr. Burgess’ attorney argued the trial court made a number of errors, all related to the introduction of evidence suggesting the killing was gang related or Mr. Burgess was a gang member. They also questioned the qualification of the gang expert who testified.
The court rejected his arguments after highlighting the expert’s background and the printed profile page of someone known as “Oops,” who described himself as a 19-year-old from New York and a member of the Murk Mob.
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