Men convicted of Grovetown murder

A Columbia County jury convicted two Augusta men Friday of murder, and each was sentenced to life in prison.

After more than seven hours of deliberation, the jury found Willie Bernard Butler, 20, and Martin Napoleon Holmes, 18, guilty in the September 2008 killing of 33-year-old Rickey Gibson in his Grovetown home.

Mr. Butler, Mr. Holmes and three other men -- Karmbi Octavious Young, 20; Patrick Booker, 19; and Garland Ray Pittman, 15 -- were accused of killing Mr. Gibson during a home invasion. A jury convicted Mr. Young in August.

In addition to felony and malice murder charges, the jury found Mr. Butler and Mr. Holmes guilty of burglary, armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Mr. Holmes also was found guilty of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. sentenced the men to life in prison and handed down 20-year sentences on many of the other charges.

Mr. Butler's defense attorney, Victor Hawk, said he likely would use Judge Blanchard's dismissal of a juror on Thursday as grounds for an appeal.

The man the court referred to as Juror 12 was dismissed for discussing the case with other jurors and possibly proclaiming that he believed the defendants were innocent.

Judge Blanchard said all jurors were told before the trial they were not to discuss the case before jury deliberations and not to form an opinion before all the evidence was presented.

When questioned by Judge Blanchard, Juror 12 said he didn't feel like the prosecution made its case and that he recognized Mr. Gibson from a photo introduced into evidence.

However, Juror 12 never admitted that he proclaimed Mr. Butler and Mr. Holmes innocent.

He also told the judge he believed he could refrain from forming an opinion until time for deliberations.

Based on that statement, Mr. Hawk and Mr. Holmes' attorney, Alexia Davis, argued that he should remain on the jury.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.