COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A Columbus man facing life in prison without parole plus 59 years if convicted on a series of crimes including a jailhouse murder rejected a plea offer from the state, setting up a high-profile trial this week in Superior Court.
Jayvon Hatchett, 22, plans to use a not guilty by the reason of insanity defense in his aggravated assault trial that started Monday in front of Superior Court Judge John Martin. He is accused of stabbing an AutoZone employee multiple times in August 2020.
In a previous court appearance, Columbus Police Sgt. R.S. Mills told the court that Hatchett told him at the time of the arrest that he “felt the need to find a white male to kill” after watching videos of police brutality happening across the country.
Hatchett is a black man and the AutoZone victim is white. The victim appeared in court Monday, sitting in a wheelchair.
Hatchett is also charged with three other cases, including another aggravated assault.
Before the jury selection process began, District Attorney Stacey Jackson offered Hatchett a deal that would roll all five of his cases into one – including the murder charge. Hatchett would have served life in prison with the chance for parole. The offer also included a mental health provision.
Hatchett spent a good deal of time conferring with his attorney, Deputy Chief Public Defender Steve Craft, before rejecting the plea deal.
Hatchett told the judge that he wanted to go to trial.
The charge that carries the heaviest potential sentence is the Sept. 5, 2020, death of his Muscogee County Jail cellmate Eddie Nelson Jr.
Nelson, who was a white man, was beaten to death in the jail and Hatchett was indicted for felony and malice murder in the death.
Members of Nelson’s family were in the courtroom Monday morning.
Nelson was in the same cell as Hatchett. Then Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins said her staff did not know of the racial motivation Hatchett admitted to police at the time of his arrest.