COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — After seven full days of testimony and two days of jury selection, the state of Georgia rested its case late this afternoon in a high-profile Columbus murder and gang case.
Brothers Terrance and Homer Upshaw along with Roderick Glanton are facing multiple murder and gang charges.
They are accused in the June 2021 shooting death of 18-year-old Saiveon Pugh and 17-year-old Jesse Ransom.
After the state rested, defense attorneys for the Upshaw brothers and Glanton said they would not present any evidence. The three co-defendants told Superior Court Judge Gil McBride they did not wish to testify in their own defense, which is their legal right.
Closing arguments on Monday morning with the case likely going to the jury later in the day.
The most interesting development on the ninth day of this trial came outside earshot of the jury.
The defense asked Judge McBride to introduce a Facebook messenger exchange between the two victims – Ransom and Pugh. The exchange was not related to this case but they appeared to be talking about eliminating someone Pugh had a disagreement with.
Assistant Attorney General Cara Convery, the lead gang prosecutor in the state of Georgia, argued there was no way McBride could allow that into evidence.
Mark Shelnutt, an attorney for Homer Upshaw, made the defense’s argument that i0000t was relevant to this case and should be admitted as evidence.
Judge McBride sided with the prosecution denying the admission of the social media exchange.
Here is how Convery couched it, followed by a piece of Shelnutt’s argument.
“These particular declarants even from the new statements are unavailable for a very particular reason,” she said. “It is not because they are in jail. It is not because they have taken the stand and taken the fifth. These are people who have been killed by the defendants now attempting to offer statements from the people that they executed in this case. So, the unavailability is not into cue because they are deceased. But they are unavailable because of these defendants.”
Shelnutt did not buy Convery’s argument despite the fact that McBride did.
“In our case, we are saying this was a justifiable homicide,” Shelnutt said. “This is the whole point of the jury verdict. To say, ‘Oh, you can’t do it because it was an execution.’ You would never be able to get it in. That was just ridiculous. That’s absurd to argue that. It’s justifiable.”
One of the state’s final two witnesses was a GBI firearms expert, Catherine Jordan, who told the jury that Pugh and Ramson were killed by bullets shot from the same AR-style weapon.
The lead homicide investigator in this case, Columbus Police Sgt. Kyle Tuggle, finished his testimony first thing Thursday morning. He spent the entire day Wednesday on the witness stand. During that questioning, he testified that video of the shooting appeared to show a fourth shooter. That person has not been identified or charged in this case.
Monday’s closing arguments are expected to take most of the day, but the jury could have the case late Monday. There will be no court on Friday because of Veterans Day.
The state has called this a gang execution of members of a rival gang. Defense lawyers for the Upshaw brothers and Glanton have asserted it was self-defense from a possible drive-by shooting.