published Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Angry outbursts follow guilty verdict in murder trial (with video)

  • photo
    Emmett "D Baby" Jones and Roderick "Poo Poo" Bates

  • photo
    Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Pickett, right, escorts Roderick Bates into Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Wednesday afternoon. His Attorney, Clancy Covert covers his mouth, at left.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Tim Higgs, right, escorts Emmett Jones into Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

For nearly all of Roderick "Poo Poo" Bates and Emmett "D Baby" Jones' six-day murder trial, co-defendants, witnesses and supporters on both sides walked quietly in and out of the courtroom.

On Friday morning, the jury found both men guilty of first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in the Oct. 7, 2011, shooting death of Reginald Clark, 37.

As the jury foreman read the word "guilty," the courtroom audience erupted in profanity, tears and screams. Bates and Jones shook their heads, shouting curses at the jury and at Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman.

Bates called the all-white jury racist and threw his hands in the air, cursing as he was escorted from the room by sheriff's deputies.

"What the (expletive) we got all these white folks on this jury, man," Bates said.

Before the jury foreman could finish reading the guilty verdict on the burglary charge, Steelman sent Jones and the jury out as deputies cleared screaming, crying supporters of the defendants from the room.

Afterward, Steelman said it was the worst reaction he'd seen in his career.

Supporters of Jones and Bates gathered in the courthouse hallway outside the courtroom. Two women wailed, their knees buckling, grabbing others for support. One man in the group shouted, "We're talking about racial discrimination."

Deputies led the group out of the building.

Prosecutors Lance Pope and Amanda Morrison called multiple witnesses who'd told police or previously testified that they saw Bates get into an altercation with Clark at the Fire and Ice nightclub on Market Street. Some of the same witnesses and others told police they were in the room when Jones and Bates came into Clark's 1644 Greenwood Drive home and both shot him multiple times. One heard Bates say something referencing the incident at the club before firing.

Defense attorneys Lee Ortwein and Clancy Covert repeatedly attacked the witnesses' credibility. Many said on the stand during trial they didn't remember key details they earlier had told police.

Pope told the jury in closing statements Thursday that the differences in accounts were likely because the witnesses were scared of repercussions if others knew they'd testified.

Nearly 20 minutes after halting the proceeding, Steelman brought Bates and Jones back into the courtroom. Each had ripped his collared shirt open, tearing off the buttons. Both were handcuffed because of their behavior following the verdict.

Steelman asked each man if he wanted to remain in the courtroom for the rest of the verdict and told them they must behave to do so.

Both agreed.

"I'm cool," Jones said.

"Why don't we just get this (expletive) over with?" Bates said. "I'm just gonna sit down. I ain't got nothing else to say."

But Jones did.

After the verdict was read and Steelman announced the pair both would serve life in prison for the murder charge Jones asked, "Judge, can I say something?"

"No," Steelman replied. He then told him he could speak at his sentencing hearing for the burglary charge.

Jones again cursed Steelman, who ruled Jones was in contempt of court and had him taken again from the courtroom.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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