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Protesters expected to gather at local murder sentencing
Thomas Lee Jones, Jr. - photo by FILE
    Protesters are expected today at the Bulloch County Superior Court Annex, where a man convicted of a 2007 shooting is scheduled for sentencing.
    Therise Jones says her son, Thomas Lee Jones, Jr., is not guilty of shooting a man Oct. 28, 2007, at Club Jackson’s on Old Register Road. However, a Bulloch County jury  felt differently, finding Jones guilty of shooting 19-year-old Hephzibah resident Julius Isaac McReynolds.
    After four days of trial, the jury deliberated about three and a half hours before finding Jones guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, false statements and writings, discharging a firearm on or near a public highway, possession of a deadly weapon at public gatherings, and carrying a weapon within a school safety zone.
    But he was not the shooter, Ms. Jones said Monday.
    “It’s really not good, what happened in Statesboro,” she said, referring to what she said was a poorly executed trial.
    She said her son is innocent, and was covering for another man who was questioned in the shooting, Lee Polk.
     Statesboro Police Lt. Anthony Gore was at the club, speaking to owner Maurice Jackson, when the shooting occurred and they both saw Polk toss a hand gun into a car, said Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Jarriel, who prosecuted the case.
    That handgun was examined and had not been fired that night, she said. The hand gun  that was used in shooting McReynolds was fired at least nine times, but was never recovered, she said.
    Ms. Jones maintains her son’s innocence. “No one ever physically identified my son, “ she said, adding they only talked about seeing “a man in an orange shirt.”
    Jarriel said more than 20 witnesses testified for the state, including Georgia Southern University employee Ramona Howard, who testified seeing a man in an orange shirt get a gun out of a car in the VIP section  (later determined to be a white Chrysler 300 Jones was driving) and begin shooting at McReynolds.
    U.S. Army employee Tameisha Pearmain testified she was driving down Old Register Road when she saw “a black male  in an orange shirt chasing the victim out of the driveway of Club Jackson’s and down the side of Old Register Road, firing multiple rounds in the direction of the victim as he fled on foot,” Jarriel said.
    Ms. Jones said several witnesses have said her son “didn’t do it.” She claims people told Jarriel who did.
    “The DA was told who did it,” she said. “She failed to do anything.”
    Jones pointed out that some forensic tests, including gunshot residue tests, proved negative.
    However, Jarriel said Jones changed clothing between the shooting incident and when police located him around 2 a.m. the next morning and could have washed away any residue.
    And, such tests “do not rule out suspects, whether they did or did not fire weapons,” she said. She added Jones “could not account for where he was” between the time of the shooting and when police located him.
    And one of Jones’ friends, Shone Hunt, testified during the trial  that he met up with Jones after the shooting and gave Jones his shirt at the request of Jones who had removed his orange shirt.
    Hunt and Jones were originally arrested because they both lied and said Hunt was driving the Chrysler, she said.
    Jones said other testimony during the trial was ignored and claims Jarriel and investigators did not conduct the trial and investigations properly.
    She, along with several members of the National Action Network and possibly NAACP, as well as other groups, will protest the jury’s conviction around 12:30 p.m. today, before Bulloch County Superior Court Judge Gates Peed is slated to sentence Jones at 1:30 p.m.
    Jones faces a maximum penalty of life plus ten years for all felony charges, Jarriel said.
    She declined to comment on  the planned protest.
    “We had a very fair jury,” she said. “It was almost a 50/50 mix” of whites and blacks, male and female, and consisted of jurors of all ages.
    During the trial, Jones chose not to make a statement of defense, and the defense “never produced a witness to the contrary” regarding Jones’ involvement in the shooting.
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