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The Trial
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The Trial:

Day 1, Dec. 14, 2004

  ATLANTA – A jury of eight women and six men, including two alternates, was selected late Tuesday in the trial of Jason Futch, accused of killing Mike Weaver in an Atlanta apartment last year.
  Testimony is scheduled to begin Wednesday at 1 p.m., and not in the morning as had been anticipated. Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell said he had a funeral to attend at 11 a.m., so the start of the trial was delayed until after the lunch hour.
  The proceedings on Wednesday should begin with opening statements from the attorneys -- prosecutors Shukura Polk, who is being assisted by Ron Boyter, both from the Fulton County District Attorney’s office; and Futch’s defense attorneys, Richard Hagler and Stephen Hyles, who have a law firm in Columbus, Ga.
  Tuesday’s jury selection began just before 10 a.m. and continued until just after 6 p.m., with a one-hour break for lunch. At the end of the day, a jury of eight women (five white, three black) and six men (five white, one black) was selected to hear the evidence and decide the case. I don’t know this for sure, but usually a jury consists of 12 people and two alternates, thus 14 people were selected.
  Here are the sights and sounds from Day 1.

The scene

 
The Fulton County Courthouse is located in downtown Atlanta, about three blocks from the gold-domed state Capitol building. The portion of the courthouse where the courtroom is located looks like it was remodeled perhaps 10 years ago, carpeted halls, quiet, multiple courtrooms with seating areas set aside off the hallways for witnesses waiting to be called.
  The courtroom is on the fourth floor. The room is about 60 feet long and about 45 feet wide, with a 10-foot ceiling, though the ceiling above the area where the attorneys and judge sit is recessed to about 14 feet, with lighting hanging below. The walls are oak-colored, not solid oak but probably veneer, all the way around the room. The walls are split into panels about 3 ˝ feet wide. A couple of them are doors that lead into side rooms, offices or conference rooms, and are distinguished as doors only by the recessed handles and door locks. The walls are mostly bare, except for a clock on the wall to the judge’s right and a large portrait of what must be a famous person -- Judge Edgar E. Pomeroy -- on the wall to the left of the judge, adjacent to the chairs where the jury sits. The room is carpeted with a greenish-brown carpet.
  Glass doors, with entryways, are located at the back, to the sides of the spectator seating area. The judge sits at the other end of the courtroom, on a pedestal, with the front being about five feet from the floor. A seal of the state of Georgia is on the wall behind him. A witness chair is to his left, and his staff attorney has a seat and computer to his right. The judge enters and exits the courtroom through doors off the corners of the room, nearest his bench.
  There are six walnut-colored benches for spectators. Five of them are exactly 24 feet long and seat exactly 12 people each. The sixth bench is perhaps 20 feet long, slightly shorter due to the design of the rear wall, the other side of which is the hallway. There are two tall, narrow windows in that rear wall to the hallway, but both windows are covered with blinds that remain closed.
  There are eight people inside the working area of the courtroom – the judge, the defendant, his two attorneys, the two prosecutors, a court reporter and the judge’s staff attorney at her computer.

The participants

   Judge Tom Campbell – His hair is grayer than shown in our photo, and he’s a few years older. He speaks slowly in typically Southern fashion, but confidently. He is a new judge, appointed only this year by Gov. Sonny Perdue. We were told he was a civil court lawyer, and we’re told he was relatively unfamiliar with criminal court law. However, he’s already supervised two murder trials and, according to the chief prosecutor, is careful in his rulings. If he’s unsure about a point of law, he will consult with his staff attorney before issuing a ruling – she sits next to a computer which, apparently, could be used to research legal issues. But the judge seems friendly and courteous and, we've been told from other sources, is extremely intelligent and competent.
  The defendant, Jason Futch – He’s short and thickly built, and looks very much like his mother. In court today Jason wore wire-rimmed glasses in the morning, but no glasses in the afternoon. He had on a blue blazer, a blue pin-striped shirt with a red tie. He said little to nothing during the jury-selection proceedings, but sat quietly at the defense attorney’s table.
  Prosecutors Shukura Polk and Ron Boyter – Ms. Polk is relatively young, attractive, thin, about 5-foot-8 perhaps, with long, straight black hair that falls to the middle of her shoulder blades. She speaks quickly, confidently, and seems very assure of herself. She wore a greenish/gray colored suit. Mr. Boyter is assisting Ms. Polk with the prosecution. He happens to be a Central High School graduate, was there when Ms. Espy was principal, and Steve Smith was his history teacher. He’s a big man, tall, perhaps 6-foot-2, and a little on the heavy side. He has dark hair, wears glasses, and wore a suit nearly the same in color as Ms. Polk’s, with a white shirt and brown tie. He, too, seems very sharp.
  Defense attorneys Richard Hagler and Stephen Hyles – They have a law firm together in Columbus, Ga., apparently specializing in criminal defense. Hagler is similar in size to Boyter, rather tall with dark graying hair. He sports a short gray mustache and peers over the reading glasses that ride on his nose. He’s not quite as heavy as Boyter, but still a large man. He wore a charcoal-black pin-striped suit, white shirt with a purple and gray striped tie. Hyles is not as large as Hagler, and not quite as tall. He also wore a dark suit, glasses and has graying hair.
  Futch’s parents – Carl and Cindy Futch were present throughout the jury selection process Tuesday. Cindy wore a dark green pant suit. She’s very blonde, with short hair, and very much looks like Jason. She’s not very tall and rather stocky. Carl is also bulky, perhaps muscular, and has very short blonde hair, almost a crew cut. He wore a navy blue suit.

The process

  8:55 a.m. --
The two defense attorneys are seated at the defense table when I arrived. For a few minutes, we are the only three people in the courtroom. Jason Futch is outside in the hallway with his parents. When they arrive they take a seat in the first bench of seats behind the partition that separates the spectator seating and the attorney’s work area. Jason sits between his two parents, and they say very little to one another or to their attorneys.
  The prosecutors arrive and introduce themselves to me. We chat for about 10 minutes as we all wait for the judge to arrive. Jurors who arrive are escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy and are told to wait in the hall, where they are given a number and told to keep their place in the line.
  9:40 a.m. -- The judge apparently has arrived. The bailiff tells the few spectators in the courtroom to move to the back row of benches. I am seated in one corner; the Futches leave Jason, who goes to sit at the defense attorney table, and the parents pass by me and take a seat in the same row eight feet away. We are the only spectators. The attorneys are called away and go into the judge’s chambers. They return in about 10 minutes, apparently ready to go.
  9:53 a.m. – The first 12 members of the prospective juror pool are brought in by a uniformed sheriff’s deputy and take their place in the front bench row. But an attorney signals to the bailiff, who speaks to the attorney and then asks the jurors to leave again, his mistake, as there are motions that need to be handled outside the presence of the jury.
  9:55 a.m. – Judge Tom Campbell arrives and speaks to the attorneys, asking them about any motions. Prosecutor Shukura Polk rises and says there are a couple of issues that need to be discussed. She said both the prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to not make any references to any previous forms of aggressive behavior displayed by Jason Futch. But she says an issue about medicine has not been resolved. Her motion asks (in so many words) that the attorneys should not be allowed to refer to medications Futch was taking. Apparently, his attorneys contend he has been diagnosed as ADD and ADHD, and was taking drugs like Paxil and Ritalin. The prosecutor asked the judge to grant a motion opposing testimony about his use of the drugs. The defense attorneys argued the references to those drugs should be allowed. However, Judge Campbell granted the prosecutors’ motion, which prompted defense attorney Richard Hagler to issue what he called a standing objection.
  10:10 a.m. – The 60 prospective jurors file in and sit 12 to a bench, completely filling the first five benches. All of the jurors carry a large card with their juror number on it. The judge welcomes the crowd, thanks them for their service and then reads the indictment issued by the grand jury. He reads the charges in their entirety. With regard to the aggravated assault charges, Judge Campbell says the charges are based in part on a statement Jason made during the altercation, when he threatened the two boys in the room where he stood with the gun. The judge said he told each boy, “You don’t know me. Get out of my way. I’m going to kill him.”
  With that, the judge started asking general questions of the entire group of prospective jurors. He would ask things like whether any of them had previously served on a jury. If they had, they raised their juror number and the attorneys made note of it. The judge asked several questions, then Polk and Hagler had the opportunity to do the same thing. Question after question went the same way. Had anyone been the victim of a crime? Relatives who are law enforcement officers? Know where The Summit at Lenox apartment complex is located? Do they own a gun? Do they drink alcohol? Where they in a fraternity of a sorority? Did they ever try to break up a fight?
  After all of the questions were asked of the jurors as a group, the first row of 12 jurors was shown to the jury box. Then each juror was questioned by each attorney. Specifics about their opinions about guns, have they ever fired a gun, were they at college parties where there was drinking, have they seen anyone drunk, do they have children, their ages, have they ever witnessed a crime, and so on.
  12:25 p.m. – The attorneys finish questioning the first 12 jurors. Judge Campbell issues a recess, and tells the second row of jurors to be back by 1:30 p.m., the next row by 2 p.m., the next 2:30 and the last at 3 p.m. Everyone breaks for lunch. I go to a cafeteria area and return about 1:05 p.m., get out the laptop computer and start typing up some of this material.
  1:30 p.m. – The judge reconvenes, and the individual questioning of jurors continues. It’s painstakingly slow. If the judge was allowing 30 minutes for each row of jurors, he grossly underestimated the time the attorneys would take. The second row went slowly, and the third row as well. All kinds of people were present -- teachers, businessmen, stay-at-home mothers, a college student athlete, an attorney, the unemployed, all kinds of people. About half of them were white, about half were black, some Hispanic; also about a 50-50 split among men and women. Question after question, juror after juror. The judge made no attempt to hurry anyone along.
  3:43 p.m. – The questioning for prospective juror number 30 ends. Exactly half of the jurors present now have been questioned.
  4:17 p.m. – Row number three, and juror 36, completes his questioning. That row returns to their seats in the spectator area, and row number four replaces them in the jury box. And the individual questioning by the attorneys resumes. Sometimes Polk, sometimes Boyter, sometimes Hagler, sometimes Hyles. Jurors who have returned to – or not yet been called from – the spectator area are free to come and go from the courtroom. But there have been no breaks since the proceedings resumed at 1:30.
  4:56 pm. – After juror number 43 was questioned, the judge stopped the proceedings and said he would consult with attorneys in his chambers to see if they felt they had enough jurors to be able to select a jury. If not, the questioning would continue.
  5:23 p.m. – The defense attorneys and Jason emerge with a bailiff and enter a conference room off to the side of the courtroom. The bailiff tells the assembled jurors that they’ll take a 10-minute break, then come back and – apparently – try to pick a jury, and dismiss the rest of the jury pool.
  5:40 p.m. – The bailiff rousts the defense attorneys and Jason from their meeting room, and they return to their seats in the courtroom. He retrieves the prosecutors from their meeting room, and they return with the court reporter. The judge arrives and says they will begin the process of striking the jury. A typed list with juror’s names on it starts at the prosecutor’s desk. She strikes a name and the bailiff hands the list to the defense attorney, who strikes another name. The list is passed back and forth as attorneys cross off the names of jurors they do not want on the jury. The list goes back and forth at least 25 times. The room is quiet, jurors only whisper, probably trying to guess who stays and who goes. After 22 minutes, when the attorneys are done with the list, the bailiff takes the list to the judge, who reviews it.
  6:03 p.m. -- The names of the 14 jurors are read and they take chairs in the jury box. The judge tells everyone that the proceedings begin Wednesday at 1 p.m., and the jurors are dismissed. However, the judge's attorney reports to the attorneys that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has filed a request to put a still photographer in the courtroom and, apparently, cover the trial. It's a fairly routine motion for the media, and judges routinely approve the requests. Nevertheless, apparently Futch's attorney will argue against allowing the cameras, so a hearing will be held at 9 a.m.; the judge will rule on that, leave to attend the funeral, and then return for trial to begin at 1 p.m.

Notes and thoughts on the process

  Strange but true – As I was preparing to leave the house and drive to Atlanta early Tuesday, I was in need of a tablet for taking notes. There were none on the desk because we recently cleaned that area and all the available papers had been scooped up and deposited somewhere else. So, there wasn’t much paper around. I went to an area in the dining room, near where we keep some books stacked up, and some maps, and occasionally tablets. Indeed, I found one in that bookcase, a spiral notebook that looked mostly unused. I looked inside the front cover and found no writing, so I took it and was on my way. I used this notebook in the courtroom to take notes. After I filled up that first empty page, I turned it and found notes. It was Mike’s handwriting, apparently notes from a calculus class. On the next two pages were biology notes. On the back of one of those pages were some addition and subtraction problems, as Mike was pretty clearly trying to balance his checkbook. None of the answers were large numbers -- $47.00 and $69.84. (But of course a low bank balance never stopped him from spending, but that’s another story.) And finally, there was a little “to do” list with three little notations on that page: One said “Call bank” and it was crossed out. The next said “E-Mail Professors” and the last said: “check on oil job.” Sounds just like Mike, but I found it strange but very appropriate that the only notebook I could find, when I needed it, was one of Mike’s.
 Evidence – Prosecutors said they expect Futch to testify in his own defense. Since there is so much evidence against him, it would appear to us at least -- and we don't have a trained eye -- that the only way he can try to minimize his sentence is by constructing some sort of rationale for what happened. His attorneys have admitted there is a lot of evidence that they will not contest, and apparently they do not plan to call any witnesses beyond those the prosecutors plan to call. The defense apparently will not dispute much of what happened, so perhaps they will argue why it happened. Prosecutors have been asked if they would accept some sort of a plea bargain, but the prosecutors have consistently declined. They are not willing to compromise the number of years in prison that Jason would serve in exchange for a speedy end to the proceedings.
  Cafeteria – Visitors to the courthouse can access a cafeteria in a neighboring building by descending the elevator to the second floor and following signs. The short walk will take people through an enclosed walkway over the street and into another building on Peachtree Street. The cafeteria only takes cash, no cards. Hot food is available, as well as a deli for sandwiches. Surely there are other restaurants nearby, but we haven’t yet explored the neighborhood.
  Reporting – This day's report is so long because I had so much time to complete it. While the attorneys were questioning the prospective jurors, I was able to sit in the back of the courtroom and type on our laptop computer, writing what you’ve read in this story. That won't happen tomorrow. We'll be seated in a different area, and I don't want to be typing during testimony anyway. So, I'll be taking fewer notes and the report won't be as long. But we'll do our best.

Day 2, Dec. 15, 2004

  ATLANTA – Three witnesses testified Wednesday about threats made by Jason Futch, and two said that after Futch threatened to kill them, they saw him raise a 12-gauge shotgun to his shoulder and fire one shot at close range in the direction of Mike Weaver.
  The buckshot went only about 8 feet, through two doors, before it struck Mike on the left side, and he was declared dead a short time later at Grady Memorial Hospital.
  A total of four witnesses testified Wednesday in Futch’s murder trial, which began at 1 p.m. and is being conducted before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell. Futch is charged with murder and seven other crimes after he launched a rage-induced verbal assault in the early morning hours of Aug. 16, 2003.
  The witnesses were all young men who were present that night, and they all told similar stories about the tragic events of the evening.
  The first witness was Michael Smith, 22, of Valdosta, a lifelong friend of Mike’s. They played baseball together at Vine Ingle Little League, went through Miller Middle and Central High schools together in Macon, and lived together for a year when both young men were attending Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.
  Smith said he and Mike had planned for some time to go to a free concert in Atlanta. Smith left home about noon on Friday, Aug. 15 and drove to Milledgeville and picked up Mike, and then Smith drove on to Atlanta, where they were to stay with friends. They arrived about 6 p.m.
  He said they had been invited to stay at the apartment of a friend they’d met in Milledgeville, who was now living in Atlanta. They went to the person’s apartment in a complex not far from Lenox Square Mall. That person was originally from Brunswick, and Jason Futch was his roommate.
  There were nearly a dozen people there that night, some of them Mike’s fraternity brothers, others friends of Brunswick people Mike and Michael didn’t know. Most of those there that night were drinking beer, including Futch. Since the group had been drinking, no one wanted to drive so they took MARTA – the Atlanta commuter train – from the apartment to downtown Atlanta, where they enjoyed the concert.
  Afterwards, they split up into small groups; some went to restaurants to eat, others went back to MARTA, but they all eventually ended up back at the apartment in the early morning hours of Aug. 16.
  Smith said he’d had some beer at the concert, and at some point he said he went to his car to retrieve a sleeping bag. But when he got to the car, he crawled in the back seat and went to sleep. He did not know what had happened in the apartment after that and slept through the shooting and all of the commotion afterward. He awoke early the following morning and knew nothing about what had happened.
  He tried to call Mike on his cell phone. He called other people, and finally found out about the shooting.
  The next witness was Patrick Leonard, 25, another person at the apartment that night. Patrick was a good friend of Mike’s, and the two had met through mutual friends at Georgia College. After reviewing the concert trip, Patrick described what happened in the apartment.
  He said the guys were relaxing, some were preparing to go to bed, while others were watching television. Some of the guys were goofing around, tipping over chairs with people sitting in them and playfully wrestling. Mike was in one of those chairs, and his was tipped over by Jason and Patrick, who said Jason and Mike had never met before.
  Mike got up and Jason started wrestling with him. Mike got him on the floor and pinned him, which sent Jason into a rage.
  Patrick said Jason told Mike to get off of him “or he’d kill him.” Others in the room picked up on the threat, and after Mike got up and backed away on his own, Patrick stepped between the two and tried to cool Jason down. Mike wasn’t angry, but was apologetic, according to one witness. But despite that, Jason hurled threat after threat at Mike. According to Patrick, Jason said: “I’m going to fucking kill you. Get the fuck out of my face.”
  Mike was directed to get away and was sent to a bathroom, and he closed the door. Jason was in a position to see where Mike had gone, but he would not calm down.  Jason went to his bedroom, which was directly across a hall from the bathroom, and Patrick followed, joined by another of the boys there. “I was not going to let him fight Mike,” Patrick said.
  Patrick said when he went into the room Jason was standing there holding a 12-gauge shotgun, which he’d retrieved from his closet. The defense attorney said the gun had once belonged to the Glynn County Sheriff's Department, but that Jason's dad had bought it, reconditioned it and had given it to Jason.
  “I’m going to kill Mike,” Jason was reported to have said. Patrick and the other boy tried to talk to Jason. At one point Patrick grabbed the barrel of the gun and pointed it to the ceiling, away from anyone.
  Patrick and the other boy continued to try to calm him down, but Jason screamed at Patrick, “You don’t know me,” and threatened them. Jason pointed the gun at both of them – “the gun was pointed at my face,” he said -- and told them they had three seconds to get out of the way or he’d shoot them.
  After his threat to the two boys he raised the gun to his shoulder, aimed at the door and fired. Patrick demonstrated what happened as he stood next to the two doors from the apartment that had been blocked up in the courtroom – each door had a shotgun hole about five feet from the floor.
  Patrick said he heard Mike scream. Patrick immediately opened the door, and Mike had opened the bathroom door. Patrick helped him out and to the floor. “He shot me, he shot me, he shot me,” Patrick said Mike told him.
  Patrick said Mike was bleeding badly, and he told someone to get him a knife so he could cut off Mike’s shirt and use it as a tourniquet. Patrick did that, but while he was helping Mike, Jason came out and yelled at Mike, telling him to get up, he wasn’t hurt that bad.
  Patrick said he turned and told Jason to leave, to go away. He said Jason did not apologize and never said he didn’t mean to do it. Patrick then turned back and tried to help Mike while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
  The third and fourth witnesses told a very similar story.
  Jerred Ferrell, 21, testified he was a friend of Jason’s from childhood. They grew up together in Brunswick. He had also driven to Atlanta that night and was there to go to the concert, and he had not met Mike before that night.
  He said that after Jason and Mike had gotten up from wrestling, he told Mike to go to the bathroom while he went with Jason into the bedroom. Jerred was there with Patrick, trying to calm Jason down. He said he told Jason to put the gun down, that “it wasn’t worth it” to think about using it. Jerred said Jason pointed the gun at him, with the same warning that he needed to get out of the way or he’d get shot, because he was going to kill Mike.
  After the gunshot went off, Jarred said he immediately ran, saw Mike emerging from the bathroom, and then ran out the back door of the apartment. He said he was afraid for his own safety, as he did not know if Jason was going to shoot someone else. He fled to the parking lot, and when he got there he used a cell phone to call 911 for emergency help.
  The last witness of the day was Joel Wiggins, 22, who was a fraternity brother of Mike’s from Milledgeville. Joel was sitting on the couch in the apartment and realized during the little wrestling match that when Jason threatened to kill Mike if he didn’t get off, that the friendly wrestling match was getting out of hand.
  Joel said that when Jason told Mike to get off, Mike did so immediately and stood up, backed up and held his hands out and apologized. “I’m sorry,” Joel quoted Mike as saying. But that did not affect Jason, who was being restrained and wanted to come after Mike, yelling obscenities at him.
  Joel said when Mike and Jason disappeared into their separate rooms he thought the disturbance had ended until he heard a loud bang and saw Mike emerge, injured, from the bathroom. He said Mike was incredulous about what had happened, “Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?” Joel quoted Mike as saying.
  The prosecutors -- Shukura Polk and Ron Boyter -- did a good job of questioning the witnesses. Jason did the shooting, was in a rage, made numerous verbal threats, and also threatened to shoot the other boys – that was the testimony, and it really wasn’t disputed.
  Jason’s primary defense attorney, Richard Hagler, questioned the four witnesses, focusing on the amount of beer they may have consumed that night, and also closely questioned each witness about what happened when, and pointed to any discrepancies in the statement they gave police the night of the shooting. But he really didn’t dispute that Jason did the shooting.
  In his opening statement to jurors, however, Hagler said he would want the jury to focus on Jason’s intent – whether Jason had the intent to kill. Hagler contended that Jason hadn’t intended to severely hurt Mike or the other two boys who were threatened. Apparently he’s going to try to suggest the boys there were all too drunk to know any better, that their version of events was wildly different and wasn’t to be trusted, and that Jason’s rage got the best of him, but he really never intended to do what he did. Hagler really isn’t disputing the facts of what happened, but it appears he’s going to contend Jason’s emotions and the beer just got the best of him.
  However, the prosecutor is expected to counter that argument with one of her own, which says that someone who voluntarily consumes alcohol cannot use their self-induced intoxication as a defense for criminal wrongdoing.
  Ms. Polk said in her opening statement that in addition to calling other witnesses who were there that night, she will be calling medical authorities, police officers and crime investigation experts.
  Jurors sat quietly throughout the day’s proceedings, and most took many notes. There were tears in the eyes of some jurors.
  The only people in the courtroom to support Jason were his parents, his younger sister and an older man who must have been a grandfather. However, more than 40 people were there to support us – family friends, friends, of Mike, and of Dan, and of Molly. We very much appreciated them taking time away from their work or their school to be with us.

  Judge Campbell adjourned the day’s proceedings shortly before 5 p.m. Testimony will resume Thursday at 10 a.m.

Day 3, Dec. 16, 2004

  ATLANTA -- Testimony ended abruptly Thursday in the murder trial of Jason Futch when Futch, who had been assailed all day by a string of prosecution witnesses, decided not to testify in his own defense.
  His decision meant Futch’s attorneys ended their defense without calling any witnesses and they presented no evidence.
  Prosecutors Shukura Polk and Ron Boyter had expected Futch to testify to try to explain why he acted the way he did the night of Mike Weaver’s death. They were prepared to question him closely about his actions in the early morning hours of Aug. 16, 2003.
  They had spent the day Thursday presenting eight witnesses, ranging from other young people who were present during the shooting, to law enforcement officers and, finally, to the medical examiner who testified about the autopsy he did on Mike’s body.
  Although all of the spectators present in support of the Weavers – there were about 35 people on Thursday – left the courtroom during the medical examiner’s testimony, we were told that Futch cried during the doctor’s testimony.
  Following the presentation from the doctor – the prosecution's eighth witness of the day, and the 12th overall – the spectators reassembled in the courtroom to hear that the prosecution had rested its case. That happened after the doctor finished testifying, which was shortly before 3 p.m.
  With that, it was the defense’s turn to present witnesses and evidence in Futch’s behalf.
  Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell read from the bench, informing Futch that he had the right not to testify, that he couldn’t be forced to testify, and only he could decide if he would do so.
  With that, defense attorney Richard Hagler told the judge he wanted to talk about the decision with Jason and his family. A 15-minute recess was granted while the defense attorneys and the Futch family went to a conference room.
  When the attorneys and the judge reassembled, Campbell again asked the defendant if he wanted to testify, and the answer was no.
  The judge brought the jurors back into the courtroom, and Hagler announced that the defense rested. Several jurors looked surprised, realizing that they would hear nothing from Jason and would not receive any evidence in his defense.
  It was 3:26 p.m., and Campbell told the jurors that they would adjourn for the day and would come back Friday morning, beginning at 9:30 a.m., when the attorneys would present their closing arguments. That should last no more than two hours, and the judge then would issue his instructions to the jury, and jurors should begin to deliberate their verdict by late-morning.
  There’s no limit on the amount of time the jury would be allowed to deliberate – it could be a short time or a very long time. They will be asked to select a foreman – a spokesperson, or leader – and then will examine the evidence. How they do that is up to them, but at some point they will take a vote. If there is disagreement, they will continue to talk about the evidence, answer their own questions, looking for unanimous agreement on a verdict.
  Once they reach a verdict, they’ll come back to the courtroom and announce it. If Jason’s convicted, the judge may decide to pronounce the sentence immediately. If he does that, the family of the victim is first allowed to present “victim impact” statements, speaking to the judge about how the family has been affected by Mike’s death.
  It’s also possible the judge will decide to put off the sentencing until another day so he can consider the more than 70 letters filed on behalf of the Weavers, as well as his own rationale for determining Futch's sentence.
  Either way, we are hopeful that the jury will deliver a verdict sometime Friday afternoon.

Day 3 testimony

  The first witness on Thursday was Adam Clements, 25, who was a fraternity brother of Mike’s from Milledgeville. He was a good friend of Mike’s, and described what happened at the apartment.
  He said after Mike had pinned Jason in the wrestling match, Jason started screaming obscenities, saying he was going to kill Mike. But Mike was backing up, apologetically.
  After Mike was shot, Adam said Mike emerged from the bathroom with a look of disbelief on his face. Mike went across the room as his friends rushed to help him, and Mike eventually was helped to the floor in the hallway just outside the apartment door.
  Adam said he went to help Mike, but there were already several people bent down trying to help. He said Jason walked up and told Mike to “get up, you’re not hurt that bad.” Adam said he went outside because there was no more room available to help Mike, and he said he “didn’t want to see much more.” Outside, he called for an ambulance.
  The next witness was Sarah Davis, 22, who was an acquaintance of Jason’s from Brunswick. She also knew the Brunswick people who were at the party.
  She came to the apartment after being called by a friend to come pick him up and give him a ride home. She did not go to the concert with the guys that night, but was in the apartment during the shooting. She testified to many of the same details as the other guys had done.
  During her cross-examination by Hagler, however, she scored a few points while being questioned about inconsistencies in her testimony and the statement she gave police the night of the shooting. Hagler accused her of changing her story, but she directed him to the second page of her statement and corrected his assertions. She was a good witness and withstood Hagler’s assault on her testimony.
  The last young person called to testify was Kenny Roberson, 22, another Georgia College student and one of Mike's fraternity pledge brothers. Kenny was from Brunswick, and he was Jason’s roommate in the Atlanta apartment. Kenny was Mike's friend, and he was the one who had offered the apartment as a place where their friends could stay the night after the concert.
  After everyone had returned to the apartment, Kenny had retired to his room and was in bed when the shooting took place. He got up, went out and tried to help Mike, but then went outside to help direct the ambulance to the best entrance to the apartment.
  Two police officers – Carlos Figueroa and Detective Lynn Daniel -- were then called as witnesses. They described arriving on the scene, securing evidence, processing the evidence.
  Daniel said the 12-gauge, pump action shotgun could hold four shells and was fully loaded with #4 buckshot shells, often used for killing deer. The shell that was in the chamber had not been ejected, and the safety feature had been clicked off – it was ready to fire again. The gun was found on Jason’s bed.
  Daniel also found a full box of shotgun shells on a table in Jason’s room. He said it was “not very common you’d have that just sitting around.”
  The detective also identified the doors which had been brought into the courtroom. In doing so, spectators saw a side of the door they had not previously seen – it had a trail of Mike’s blood that flowed to the floor, apparently where Mike had leaned after opening the door to exit the bathroom.
  The officer also testified that the gun was originally assigned to the Glynn County Sheriff’s Department in Brunswick, and he also said the height/weight on Jason’s driver’s license indicated he was 5-foot-6-inches tall and 190 pounds.
  The next witness was Jason’s father, Carl Futch, who is a deputy sheriff in Glynn County, where he serves warrants. He said the gun had been old, was deteriorating and was unsafe to use when he acquired it. Jason’s attorney said the gun had been disposed of by the sheriff’s department and went to a gun wholesaler, who then sold the gun to Carl Futch.
  Carl said he refurbished the gun and made it safe to use again. It had been used for hunting birds and shooting skeet. He said that when Jason turned 17, he asked for the gun so Carl gave it to him.
  The prosecutor asked Carl if he had trained Jason in gun safety. Carl said that he had not. Carl testified he believed Jason was capable of using the gun safely and wisely.
  Carl also testified that he had personally removed the doors from the apartment and had kept them in his possession until Jason’s attorney said they needed to be turned over to prosecutors.
  The seventh witness of the day was Bernadette Davies, from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, an expert in firearms examination. She testified she had tested the gun and examined the markings from the expended shotgun shell and concluded the gun was the same one that fired the shell recovered at Jason’s apartment.
  She also said there were 27 pellets in each shell, and that when it was fired the muzzle of the gun was no more than 4 feet from the bedroom door, which was about 4 feet from the bathroom door.
  Following her testimony, the judge asked the jury to leave, then advised the spectators that the next scheduled witness would be a medical examiner, who would have some graphic evidence to present that might be difficult for the family to watch. With that, the Weavers and all of the spectators who were there to support them left the courtroom, while only the four members of the Futch family remained behind.
  The medical examiner’s testimony lasted about 30 minutes. The prosecutor said later that the testimony included graphic autopsy photos that showed Jason exactly what he had done to Mike. She said Jason cried throughout much of the testimony, and was still crying when the medical examiner left and the Weavers and the other spectators went back into the courtroom.
  When the medical examiner finished, the state rested its case. The first thing defense attorney Hagler did was make a motion for a directed verdict. This is a routine motion made by defense attorneys after prosecutors rest their case.
  In making the motion, the attorney tells the judge that in his opinion the state did not present sufficient evidence to prove the charges against the defendant, the case should not be submitted to the jury, and the attorney asks the judge to direct a verdict in favor of the defendant. Sometimes – but not often -- the judge agrees that the evidence wasn’t sufficient and grants the motion, ending the proceedings. If he grants the motion, the defendant is off the hook.
  However, as expected, in this case there was an abundance of evidence that this case should go to the jury, so the judge quickly denied Hagler's motion.
  The judge then said he needed to know if the defendant was going to testify. The judge read a series of questions to Jason, asking him if he knew that he couldn’t be forced to testify – it’s a defendant’s constitutional right not to have to testify against himself. The judge had to make sure that Jason was aware of his rights, that he didn’t have to testify if he didn’t want to.
  With that, Hagler asked the judge for a 15-minute recess to talk about it with Jason and his family. When they emerged, the judge asked Hagler what Jason would do, and he said Jason would not testify. The judge asked Jason directly if that was his decision, and Jason said it was.
  With that, the judge brought the jury back into the courtroom and ended the day's proceedings, adjourning until 9:30 a.m. Friday.

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.

-- All of the above was written by Bill Weaver, Mike's dad

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