The jury was expected to begin deliberations this morning in the April 29 shooting death of Ronald Rashun “Ray Ray” Cameron, 24, at the American Legion Hall in Hogansville.
Closing arguments were heard Wednesday afternoon amid tightened security after spectators to the trial got in an argument outside the courtroom Tuesday, leading to several arrests for disorderly conduct.
Kevin James Simon Jr. of Newnan and Renordo McKiver of Atlanta, both 22 at the time of their arrests, are charged with felony murder, aggravated assault with a weapon and possession of a firearm with intent to commit a felony.
Lawyers for the two men argued Wednesday that their clients didn’t commit the crimes and the prosecution hadn’t been able to prove their case because of shoddy work by the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.
“We didn’t do it and (the prosecutors) haven’t shown anything to prove they did,” said Mike Cam, McKiver’s lawyer.
Cam and Graylin Ward, Simon’s lawyer, said investigators essentially closed their case after arresting Simon at the scene and having McKiver turn himself in three days later. They criticized Chief Investigator Charles Nixon for not making a report of his work at the scene.
“They didn’t care what happened to a bunch of black rappers at the American Legion,” Cam said. “A Cub Scout could have done a better investigation. It ought to scare you. It means it depends on who is in office and whether or not you’re favored will depend on what kind of investigation you get.”
The shooting happened just after 2 a.m. at the legion, just outside of Hogansville, after a concert by a rap group called the Slimeballs. Rival gang members from Hogansville and Newnan got into a fight and eventually guns were brought in. Several gunshots were heard on 911 tapes played for the jury as multiple calls were made for help during the melee.
The defense attorneys questioned the witness statements from the scene and the forensics of just how Cameron, who was more than 6 feet tall, was shot in the chin by the defendants who are much shorter.
“With a proper investigation, justice could have been done,” Ward said.
Assistant District Attorney Melissa Himes admitted to the jury that the investigation wasn’t perfect.
“I understand this wasn’t a neat package,” she said. “But if everything was a neat package, we wouldn’t need juries. When the victim was shot, time didn’t freeze.”
Responding officers “came upon chaos,” she said, with more than 200 people in the building with multiple rooms, and about 50 to 70 of them still fighting.
“I’m not excusing the shortcomings, but they do not rise to the level of reasonable doubt,” she said.
She also chastised Cam for his assertion that the sheriff’s department wasn’t concerned about the rap group.
“Shame on him for making this a classist, racist situation,” she said.
Himes said there was “credibility in the inconsistency” of the witness statements, comparing it to halftime at a football game.
“Some people are watching the band. Some people are watching the cheerleaders. Some people are watching the team, walking off to have a chat,” she said. “Everyone is watching something different. Now, throw in gunfire.”
Himes said the two men are guilty of “breaking up a fistfight with a gun.”
“Now this family is missing their loved one,” she said.
The verdict could come today with security on alert at the Troup County Government Center after Tuesday’s fight in the hall. Even Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin weighed in, warning spectators not to talk to each other in the halls.
“I want you all to be around for Christmas (and not in jail),” he said.
There were at least eight sheriff’s deputies keeping watch on proceedings in the courtroom, which normally has just two deputies for trial proceedings. More officers were in the hall, some wearing Kevlar vests and carrying riot shields, and Georgia State Patrol officers also were on the scene.
Spectators and jury members were escorted out separately by deputies when closing statements ended after 6 p.m. to even more LaGrange police officers waiting in the parking deck to ensure everyone’s safety.