Mack Kelley convicted of murder

Published 8:45 pm Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the second try, a Pike County jury found Eddie Mack Kelley guilty Thursday for the 2007 murder of Brundidge’s Joey Spikner.

Emotions were high after the jury announced its verdict, a little more than a hour after deliberations began.

But when Circuit Judge Jeff Kelley asked if the verdict was unanimous some jurors didn’t agree.

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Since the jury must return a unanimous verdict for it to count, the jury deliberated once more and reached a guilty verdict in agreement.

“I do hope this sends a message to some of these gun toting citizens of Pike County,” said Assistant District Attorney Larry Jarrell. “We’re not going to stand for (gun violence). Every time we try a case, we hope it sends a message to society.”

Jurors heard from two final witnesses Thursday before reaching a decision.

The first witness to testify was Willie Capal, a security guard at Brown’s Lounge, who was working the night Spikner was killed. The second testimony came from John Averett, who was at Brown’s Lounge the night of the murder and a close friend of Spikner.

Both witnesses placed Kelley, Michael Streeter, who has already been convicted of the same crime, and Willie Bernard “BB” Cole at Brown’s Lounge the night of the murder.

Capal testified that he saw the three with two males from Springhill, and that the guys from Springhill were “in Kelley’s face” on the dance floor.

“I asked him what was going on and the guy from Springhill said ‘nothing,’” Capal said. “So I just let it go.”

Capal said after another song or two had played the guys from Springhill were still in Kelley’s face, and that Kelley, Streeter and Cole left the club.

“By the time I got to the door, the guy from Springhill was following them,” Capal said.

Capal testified to going outside the club but said the three were already at the car when he got out there. He said the guys from Springhill were out there, but he went back inside the club to search people coming into the lounge.

While Capal said he didn’t actually see anyone the shooting, he did hear shots.

After hearing shots, Capal testified that there were people lying on the ground and others were picking people up trying to take others to the hospital.

According to Capal, Kelley’s car was gone when he stepped back outside.

When questioned by Defense Attorney Jim Debardelaben, Capal said he followed the th Kelley, Streeter and Cole to make sure they got into the car.

He identified the guys from Brundidge as members of the Hilltop Hustlers, and according to his testimony said that Kelley did not appear to be the instigator of the confrontation.

Debardelaben asked Capal if he could tell if there was more than one weapon fired.

“It sounded like the same one to me,” Capal said. “They too close together.”

Averett took the stand next and testified to seeing Kelley, Streeter and Cole leave Brown’s Lounge.

“I heard someone say they had guns,” Averett said.

Averett testified that he saw Kelley reach out the car door and shoot into the crowd once.

But he then said Streeter started shooting.

He said he was not a member of the Hilltop Hustlers, but was closely associated as he was around them a lot.

In closing arguments, the prosecution said this case was not a typical murder case.

“Normally, you’d expect the person charged to be the person who actually pulled the trigger,” Jarrell said. “Eddie Mack Kelley is guilty of reckless murder. We have contended all along that Kelley was not the person who pulled the trigger. That was Michael Streeter.”

The prosecution said that Kelley was there to assist in the reckless killing and some testimony showed that he shot and others that he did not, but they all agreed that his gun jammed.

Which is why the state was charging Kelley with reckless murder.

“This is a situation where the shooting is in the crowd — an act so indifferent to human life that they didn’t really care,” Jarrell said.

In the defense’s closing arguments, Debardelaben tired to show there were holes in the evidence brought by the state, even calling it a “slip job investigation.”

He said that there were differing opinions as to where the people were gathered from the police’s account and from testimony by Capal and Averett.

“The bullet that killed Mr. Spikner, their expert can’t match it up with the gun,” Debardelaben said.

“I heard the car was in so many different places.”

The defense said the state gave Cole immunity in turn for testimony, but that Kelley also testified at Streeter’s trial and was indicted.

“You have to find some act that (Kelley) assisted Streeter in killing somebody,” Debardelaben said. “Remember what Barnes said. Look at the different places we have the people and the cars. Look at this gun and wonder why the cartridges are left in one and taken out of the one the man brought in. We don’t have evidence.”

In the prosecution’s rebuttal, Jarrell said the defense was doing what most defenses do – put the police on trial.

“Rarely have I ever been in a criminal trial when the defense didn’t do it,” Jarrell said.

“I did it when I was a defense attorney. I don’t fault Mr. Debardelaben for doing that.”

Debardelaben asked the judge to let Kelley stay out of jail on bond until his sentencing date.

That request was denied and Kelley will be held in the Pike County Jail until his sentencing, which has not been set.

“Up until this time (Kelley) has not been convicted of murder,” Jarrell said.