CONWAY — Before he was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, Marcus Wright bent down to a microphone in the courtroom and denied he shot a 37-year-old Socastee man 10 times in April 2012.
“The family heard what happened to him, it wasn’t me,” Wright said before Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes sentenced him to life in prison for murder, 25 years for trafficking cocaine charge, 15 years for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and five years for unlawful possession of a handgun.
A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for about two hours before they found the 31-year-old guilty of murder in the April 30, 2012, shooting death of Jerome “JJ” Green, who died inside his cousin’s home on Figure Eight Road.
Green’s family said their suffering will continue but Wright’s conviction and sentence Thursday offered some comfort.
“It’s good and we feel better,” said Katrina Green, JJ Green’s sister, after the trial. “JJ was so full of life; laughing, smiling . . . We will never be the same without him.” JJ Green had two sons and Katrina Green said she has spoken to them about their fear that they will be gunned down like their father.
“It was a senseless act that has devastated our friends and family,” Katrina Green said.
Witnesses testified that Green made a remark to his cousin, Roy Sinclair, about people and drugs being inside Sinclair’s home and Wright took the comment as disrespect and shot Green 10 times. Witnesses testified Green was unarmed and he was shot four times in the back.
Alma Jean Green, JJ Green’s mother, said it was her birthday and she was looking forward to Mother’s Day when her son was killed.
“For me and my family, I just want to know why,” Alma Green said, her voice wavering from emotion. “If you never lost a child, you don’t know the pain I go through.”
Donna Elder, a senior solicitor with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, said the case was expedited because of the seriousness of the crime and Wright’s behavior.
Wright was arrested three times while out of jail on bail after being charged in Green’s death.
One of those arrests included prosecutors charging Wright with soliciting a person to kill a witness in the case, Elder said.
“The conduct of Mr. Wright while he was out on bond has been horrendous,” Elder said.
Other charges filed against Wright included traffic offenses in connection with a house being hit with a vehicle and earlier this month Wright was charged with fleeing from police following a traffic crash involving a trooper with the S.C. Highway Patrol.
“We felt that Marcus Wright was a significant danger in the community,” Elder said. “Our witnesses were extremely brave to come forth and testify.”
Prosecutors called 12 witnesses, including several people who were inside Sinclair’s house and saw the shooting.
Before closing arguments Thursday morning, Wright indicated he wanted to testify in the case, but Hayes denied his request because Hayes said he had ruled that jurors could not consider involuntary manslaughter or self-defense as a possible verdict. When questioned on Wednesday, Wright declined to testify.
“The right to testify is relinquished after the defense rests,” Hayes said. “I’m not going to let him testify.” Prosecutors and defense attorneys concluded their cases Wednesday evening.
During his closing arguments Thursday, Morgan Martin, who represents Wright, told jurors to consider the credibility of the witnesses called to testify as to what happen the night Green was shot. Martin declined to comment after the trial.
“This is a case of violence. It is a case of drug trafficking. It is a case of very bad things,” Martin said. “But it gets down to evidence presented in the court or the lack of evidence presented in the courtroom.” Martin told jurors that witnesses, who testified, had inconsistencies in their stories and were testifying to save themselves from going to prison on drug charges.
“We’re talking about people who are admittedly on drugs and drinking alcohol,” Martin said. “There’s a reason to blame Marcus Wright and I’m sure we will ever know what it is. . . There’s no evidence of DNA or fingerprints of Marcus Wright.”
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.