Mother of a South Georgia mass murderer takes stand - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Mother of a South Georgia mass murderer takes stand

By Delivrine Registre - bio | email

December 15, 2008

TIFTON, GA (WALB) - Jamie Underwood's mother testified about the difficult living conditions in which he grew up. Underwood pleaded guilty to killing six migrant workers and injuring six others during several violent home invasions around Tifton three years ago.

Now the defense hopes these character witnesses will help prove Underwood deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison instead of being sentenced to death.

A huge board with Jamie Underwood's family tree was displayed in the courtroom. "We intend over the next few days to bring you his story through a number of family members," said Francis.

And during Defense Attorney Dennis Francis' opening statement he said testimony from these people will show why Underwood deserves to live. That testimony began with his mother, Martha Underwood.

"He was born to a very young mother at the age of 17, who was in the ninth grade and ill-equipped to take care of a young person." said Francis.

Francis also plans to call an expert witness to discuss Underwood's I.Q. score of 75 which qualifies as borderline mentally retarded. This brought Underwood to tears. "You are also going to hear about other family members who are clearly in the mental retardation score range."

But the first witness called to the stand was Adriana Helenek, a member of the First Initiative Victims Outreach with the Georgia Counsel for Establishing Justice. "She told me I cry everyday for my son. And I want him to cry everyday for my son too," said Helenek.

Helenek speaks to the families of the murdered men who live in Mexico. Most of them relaying through her that they do not want Underwood to receive the death penalty.

"She said its not fair for him to die in a few short minutes when it took so long for my son to die. I think he needs to think about what he did for the rest of his life in jail," said Helenek.

And that is the message Francis hopes Tift Superior Court Judge Gary McCorvey gets when he decides the final sentence for Jamie Underwood.

Underwood was already sentenced to 120-years for guilty pleas in this case. After the defense finishes its case, Judge McCorvey will now decide whether Underwood will get the death penalty for the murders.

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