Chattanooga jury finds Hawthorne guilty of murder; sentenced to life

Chattanooga jury finds Hawthorne guilty of murder; sentenced to life

August 2nd, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Jerrico "Ri-Ri" Hawthorne sits in Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom during a trial on charges against him in the slaying of 23-year-old James "J Money" Williams Jr. in this file photo.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Jurors found 26-year-old Jerrico "Ri-Ri" Hawthorne guilty of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, felony murder among other charges this afternoon in the 2011 slaying of 23-year-old James "J Money" Williams Jr.

He was sentenced to life in prison on the murder charge; sentencing on the other charges will be determined later.

Hawthorne's trial began Tuesday. The jury, made up of seven men and six women, deliberated Thursday afternoon from 2 to 7 p.m., and resumed their work this morning.

Hawthorne, a Gangster Disciple gang member, was accused of shooting Williams to death during a robbery on July 27, 2011. Williams arrived home at 2305 E. 17th St. with his girlfriend, Yetta Harris, when he was ambushed by two suspects.

Williams, who was a known drug dealer, was shot 10 times and sustained 14 gunshot wounds. He died on the way to the hospital.

Harris sustained three gunshot wounds and spent weeks recovering in the hospital. The case hinged on her eyewitness testimony as well as her teenage son, Jeffrey Dunnigan, who was at home at the time.

Before Williams died, he identified the gunman as "Ri-Ri," according to testimony.

Hawthorne's defense attorney, Amanda Dunn, brought in an expert in eyewitness testimony who testified that the photo line-ups were not properly administered by police to Harris and her son.

Dunn also found an alibi for Hawthorne.

Myra Mayes, an East Lake Courts resident, came forward a year after Hawthorne's arrest and never went to police or prosecutors. She told the court Wednesday that Hawthorne was with her the night of the shooting even though cell phone records showed calls between her and Hawthorne during the same time they were reportedly together.

Hawthorne was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault charges in 2008. Two attempted first-degree murder charges were dismissed in the same case, according to court records.

Hawthorne's co-defendant, Deangelo "Fookie" Justice, a fellow gang member, is set to go to trial Aug. 8 before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern.