0

'Spot' shooter receives life sentence for murder

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A Jonesboro man was found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison, on Thursday, for the 2008 murder of a College Park man at a Clayton County bar, according to an assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case.

A jury found Derrick Ashley Blake, 32, guilty of two counts of felony murder, and one count each of aggravated assault, possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, said Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Sheryl Freeman.

Freeman, and fellow Assistant District Attorney Luana Popescu prosecuted the case.

Blake was accused of committing the Dec. 23, 2008, murder of Marion Turner, also known as "Moss," during an argument at The Spot Bar and Grill, on Georgia Hwy. 85.

"He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, plus five [additional] years in prison," Freeman said.

Freeman said Blake killed Turner during a drug deal that escalated into an argument, and then led to the shooting. She said Blake met Turner at "The Spot" to engage in an illegal drug transaction. "Allegedly, the victim was selling marijuana," to Blake, she said.

Blake's attorney, Derek Wright, said the argument was over approximately $120 that his client paid for an ounce of marijuana. Wright said his client did not think he was getting as much marijuana as he paid for. "He told Mr. Turner, 'Na, you keep it, just give me my money back,'" the attorney said.

After the argument began, Blake "did go to his motor vehicle, and retrieve a handgun, and return to the bar, and shoot Mr. Turner two times," Clayton County Police Detective Christopher Helton wrote in the warrant for Blake's arrest.

Freeman said Turner was shot once in his back, and once in one of his arms.

Wright said his client was acting in self-defense. He said there were three other men, with Turner, at the time of the shooting. "There were four of them, and just one of him," the attorney said. "He feared for his life."

Wright said the other three men testified, during the trial, that Turner warned his client, that "you better get your gun," but it was unclear if that meant the firearm was needed if Blake wanted to get his money back, or to just get away from the scene.

Wright said he believed the jury became concerned about the self-defense argument, because two shots, and not just one, were fired.

But, the fact that Blake even had a firearm was a violation of state law, according to Freeman. She said the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, comes from the fact that Blake had previously been convicted of two drug charges, in Chatham County.

"Under Georgia law, if you are a convicted felon, you are prohibited from carrying a firearm," Freeman said. "Because, he was a convicted felon, he should not have been carrying that weapon."

The assistant district attorney added that, after the murder of Turner, Blake fled to Savannah, which is in Chatham County. She said he was a native of that area, and still had family who lived there. He was finally taken into custody four months after the shooting occurred, and brought back to Clayton County, she said.

Wright said his client had only been in the Atlanta area for eight months when the shooting occurred, and likely went back to Savannah out of fear about what might happen to him, in retaliation for shooting Turner. "I think, ultimately, if he had been asked that question on the stand, he would have said, 'Hey, I wasn't sure if these other guys were going to come after me,'" the attorney said.

Wright also said he plans to file a motion for a new trial, in Clayton County Superior Court, possibly as soon as "early next week," to get the appeals process started for his client. "I would like a new trial, because I would like the jury to consider some other options," he said. "I would have liked the jury to consider voluntary manslaughter."

Freeman said Blake's conviction, and life sentence, close the book on a shooting that ended up being a contributing factor in the closing of "The Spot." The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of revoking the bar's business license, in February.

County officials cited the murder, and 84 other incidents, ranging from the sale of illegal substances, to rape, to armed robberies, as reasons for revoking the business' license.