Jamie Hood asks for new judge

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

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ATHENS, Ga. - During a preliminary hearing Monday afternoon, Jamie Hood, who is charged with killing an Athens police officer, summed up his own fears in his death penalty case by quoting a 1970s Vicki Lawrence song.

"It's the night the lights went out in Georgia," Hood said. "It's the night they hung an innocent man. Don't trust your soul to no backwoods southern lawyer. The judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands."

Clarke County Superior Court Judge David Sweat stopped Hood at that point, calling such statements "inappropriate" during the proceedings.

But Sweat vented his own frustrations as the hearing to determine whether the original judge in the case should hear the actual trial got delayed yet again.

"I'm exasperated," Sweat said after hearing Hood's new attorney was not prepared to move forward with the hearing. "It just seems like every time we try to get something done in this case, there's another reason why we can't."

For months, Hood has complained about his court-appointed attorneys Christian Lamar and Emily Gilbert. After they attempted to have Hood declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, he rebelled and demanded the two be removed.

After months of legal wrangling, the two submitted paperwork to leave the case. They have been replaced by another public defender, Newell Hamilton, Jr. of Brunswick.

But Hamilton told the judge he was not prepared to move forward since the actual attorney hand-off hadn't happened yet. As a result, certain legal deadlines for paperwork and filings were missed.

Sweat seemed furious at yet another delay.

"This has been the matter the court has been trying to deal with since March," Sweat said. "It seems like the only thing happening in his case is delays."

Hood is accused of, and has admitted to, wounding Athens-Clarke County Police Officer Tony Howard and killing Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian in 2010.

Sweat was named to hear motions as to whether original judge Lawton Stephens should preside over the trial since Stephens admitted to knowing Howard and attending Christian's funeral.

Since then, he's also presided over several other hearings including one determining Hood was competent to stand trial.

At one point during the hearing, Hood expressed frustrations over the delays, as well. He even offered to represent himself at trial if it will move things along.

"If I've got to come in here an represent myself, I'll be willing to do that," said Hood. "I'm sitting in a Barrow County Jail freezing in a cell 23, 24 hours a day. I'm ready to get this trial over with."

Sweat refused to grant Hamilton's request for another two weeks to prepare instead rescheduling the recusal hearing for Friday morning.

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