Appeals court upholds death sentence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2003

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has affirmed a convicted murderer will be put to death.

In a statement released June 27, the appeals court upheld

an Oct. 11, 2000, decision to sentence Jeffrey Lee to death.

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A jury had recommended life without parole for Lee, 26, by a vote of seven to five, but Fourth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jack Meigs overruled the recommendation and sentenced Lee to death on two counts of capital murder.

The convictions stem from the murders of Jimmy Ellis and Elaine Thompson on Dec. 12, 1998.

Lee’s former defense attorney, Michael Jackson, said he didn’t think the appeals court’s decision would stand. &uot;It’s going to be reversed in the end,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;It’s going to the next level.&uot;

The next step in the appeal process is the Alabama Supreme Court.

Jackson said that during the trial he contended Lee was mentally challenged and the jury agreed. That was why the original sentence of life without parole was handed down, Jackson said.

Dallas County District Attorney Ed Greene, though, said the defense’s evidence of Lee’s mental ability was questionable. State experts noted Lee was mentally competent, Greene said.

According to trial court documents, Lee entered Jimmy’s Pawnshop in Orrville around noon, Dec. 12, 1998, with a sawed-off shotgun. Upon entering, he immediately shot owner Jimmy Ellis and then clerk Elaine Thompson.

Lee continued shooting, hitting clerk Helen King and Ellis once again.

Ellis and Thompson subsequently died. King feigned death during the incident and lived to testify at Lee’s trial.

Before fleeing, Lee attempted to take the cash register, but failed because wires were attached to it. Leaving the weapon, Lee fled the scene with two cousins.

According to Greene, Lee and his cousins went to Georgia. The cousins then returned to Dallas County and informed law enforcement authorities of the shooting.

Lee was later apprehended in a Georgia motel and later confessed to the shooting. He is currently incarcerated in the state penitentiary.