The Trial: Day 4

Day 4, Dec. 17, 2004

ATLANTA – Jason Futch was convicted of murder on Friday, Dec. 17, 2004 and was immediately sentenced to life in prison, plus five years.

Futch was convicted of all three charges involving Mike Weaver — felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

The Fulton County Superior Court jury acquitted him of four other charges involving alleged assaults on two other young men who tried to stop Futch from shooting Weaver in the early morning hours of Aug 16, 2003.

The jury deliberated about 3 1/2 hours, returning a verdict at about 5:10 p.m.

Prosecutor Shukura Polk said Futch would first become eligible for parole on the murder charge in about 14 years, but the state Board of Pardons and Parole rarely — if ever — paroles someone the first time they become eligible. So, he would have to serve another 8 years before becoming eligible again.

But he still would have to serve an additional 5 years for the aggravated assault charge after the end of his murder sentence. Therefore, Polk said Futch very likely will be in prison for AT LEAST 27 years before he would be paroled. The sentence could be lengthened, of course, if Futch acts up while in prison.

Which prison he ends up in won’t be known for a few weeks.

The jury received the case at about 12:30 p.m., but took an hour off for lunch before beginning to ponder a verdict. It was shortly before 5 p.m. when jurors notified officers they had reached a decision.

When the verdict was read, Futch had little reaction. He had been looking down at the floor for most of the four-day trial, and seemed relatively unfazed at the jury’s verdict, even though his attorney had argued Futch should be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and not murder.

Though Futch was unemotional after the verdict was read, he repeatedly cried and sobbed while members of the Weaver family gave “victim impact statements.” Under Georgia law, the victims of crimes get to make statements to the judge prior to sentencing.

Erin, Molly, Dan and Bill all gave statements, and they talked about what they missed in not having Mike around, how terrible the past months have been, how all of Mike’s dreams — and the dreams his parents and siblings had for Mike — will never come to pass. Both Futch and his parents, along with his sister, cried and sobbed as the Weavers — who also fought their emotions — read their statements to Judge Tom Campbell.

But following those statements, Futch learned he had a life sentence in prison, plus an additional five years. Campbell had no latitude in either sentence — murder is a mandatory life sentence, and the other charge also carries a maximum of 5 years.

Futch was then led to the front of the courtroom, where the judge informed him of his rights to appeal. After that, a Fulton County Sheriff’s deputy came up behind Futch and escorted him to a side door, his first step into a quarter century of confinement. After final, tearful farewells with his mother, father and sister, the convicted murderer was led away in custody.

Earlier Friday, Polk and defense attorney Richard Hagler had made their closing arguments to the jury.

Polk did an excellent job in going point by point through the testimony, the law, Futch’s actions and his words. At one point she was on her knees, reminding the jury that if Jason really cared about hurting Mike, he would have been on his knees helping Mike deal with his shotgun wound. Instead, Futch was cursing at Mike, saying he wasn’t hurt badly and should get up. Mike died a short while later at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Polk also said that even though Jason cried Thursday during testimony by a medical examiner, “He didn’t cry for Michael. He is crying for Jason.” She challenged the jury by saying, “You are the voice for the citizens of Fulton County. The decision you make sends a message.

“Come back with a verdict that speaks the truth,” Polk said, “guilty on each and every count.”

Hagler attacked minor inconsistencies in the witnesses produced by the state — the defense produced no witnesses whatsoever, not even Futch. Hagler said Jason never meant to kill Mike, but obviously he had done so. Therefore, Hagler argued, Futch should be convicted not of murder, but of involuntary manslaughter.

And he said there was not sufficient evidence to prove that Futch had intended to kill the two boys who tried to stop Jason while he held a shotgun in his bedroom. In the end, the jury apparently agreed, as Futch was acquitted of the charges against the two boys, Patrick Leonard and Jerred Ferrell.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard came to the courtroom after learning the jury was ready to return his verdict and sat at the prosecutor’s table with Polk and Ron Boyter, the other prosecutor who helped try the case. Howard also met with the Weavers earlier in the afternoon, expressing his sorrow for Mike’s loss, and he did so again after Futch was led away.

As spectators were beginning to leave, Polk stopped them to thank them — another 40 were present on Friday — for their show of support throughout the trial. She said it’s rare that so many people show up in support of a murder victim. She said that kind of support, and the ability to help families like ours get some measure of satisfaction with a guilty verdict, is why she’s in the business she’s in.

Erin also thanked the spectators, who included family friends, friends of Mike — including some of the boys who had testified — friends of Molly and friends of Dan. We sincerely appreciated so many people taking so much time away from their jobs and holiday preparations.

The Weavers then went to the jury room and thanked the jury, including those six jurors who had returned to the courtroom after rendering their verdict to hear the Weavers’ statements, and to witness Futch’s sentencing. Asked about why they didn’t convict Futch of the assaults on Leonard and Ferrell, one juror said they just didn’t think there was sufficient evidence — or it was in conflict — proving Futch had indeed threatened to kill the boys.

So, with that, this gruesome chapter in the death of Mike comes to an end. We thank the prosecutors for their genuine concern and professionalism, Pamela the victim’s advocate, District Attorney Howard and everyone else in the D.A.’s office who helped prosecute Mike’s case. We also thank the boys who tried to help Mike after he was hurt, the other people who testified against Jason, the police officers for their thorough job and, of course, we thank the many spectators for their very welcomed support.

We’ll never get Mike back, but we felt a sense of relief Friday night knowing that the man who took Mike’s life will forever be known as a convicted murderer, and that he no longer is walking the streets and enjoying a carefree life, but instead now is making new “friends” in prison. There is some satisfaction in that, and we’re glad this sad chapter has finally come to an end.

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