09/28/10 — Wright guilty of shooting officer

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Wright guilty of shooting officer

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 28, 2010 1:46 PM

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Jerome Wright

After deliberating for 35 minutes, a jury found Jerome Wright guilty of seven of the eight charges against him in connection with the shooting of Goldsboro police Officer Clint Hales in June 2008.

However, the jury found Wright not guilty of the most serious charge of first-degree attempted murder. He was found guilty, however, of two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana.

Wright, 27, is already serving 10 years in prison on a federal charge of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Wayne County Superior Court Judge Jack Jenkins also sentenced Wright Monday evening to a minimum of 207 months for the combined charges. Jenkins also ruled that Wright is to serve that time consecutive to his current sentence.

Immediately following the verdict, Hales said with a smile that he felt "not bad" and added, "I feel like he did his job," referring to Assistant District Attorney Mike Ricks. Ricks declined comment.

Defense Attorney William Bland did not comment on the case, but said he is glad no one died in the shooting and that the injuries weren't even more serious.

The shooting occurred on June 8, 2008, when Hales stopped Wright for a taillight violation. Witness accounts as well as Hales' and Wright's accounts differ from that point, with Hales saying Wright produced a gun and shot him twice before he returned fire, shooting Wright in the buttock. Wright in his testimony said Hales began shooting first and he only returned fire in self-defense, shooting Hales in the chest and abdomen. The shot to the chest was blocked by Hales' bullet-proof vest.

In his closing argument, Bland asked the jury to look at more than just face-value.

"(It's a natural reaction to go) 'I know what happened, the thug, the felon is completely in the wrong. Let's just lock him up.' But you said you would listen to the evidence and presume innocence, at least up to this point," Bland told the jury.

Bland also questioned why Hales' in-car video camera was turned off and why back-up was never called when Wright was initially pulled over. Police Chief Tim Bell testified during the trial that Hales was having problems with his in-car camera.

During the state's closing argument, Ricks told the jury that when Wright was stopped by Hales, Wright knew he had warrants for his arrest, knew his probation was revoked, knew he had a gun and drugs in the car and knew if he was arrested that he was going to prison.

"Mr. Wright had no intentions of going to jail and then prison on June 8, 2008," Ricks said.

Ricks showed a photo from the crime scene and said that where the shell casings from Wright's gun landed do not line up with Wright's testimony of where he was standing when he fired the gun.

Ricks also showed a picture of a bedroom in a nearby house on Creech Street that one of Wright's bullets went through during the shooting.

"This is your community, folks," he told the jury.