Macon man seeking appeal in 1998 murder case

awomack@macon.comSeptember 9, 2012 

Although 16-year-old Rodricko Calloway Jr. wasn’t raised with his father in the house, he shares his mannerisms.

He walks and talks the same as his namesake.

His mother says they have the same bad handwriting.

The teenager’s hair even turns sandy red in the winter, just like his dad’s.

Calloway was a toddler when his father, Rodricko Calloway Sr., was fatally shot during a fight in a neighborhood between Macon’s Houston Avenue and Broadway Oct. 3, 1998.

Now, nearly 14 years later, the Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal for the man serving a life sentence for the killing, plus an additional 10 years. A hearing is scheduled to begin Monday afternoon in Atlanta.

Alvin Conell Harris contends his trial lawyer made a mistake and didn’t tell him about a plea deal -- 20 years in exchange for a voluntary manslaughter plea -- offered by prosecutors.

If he’d known about the offer, he wouldn’t have gone to trial, said Thad Kodish, one of six lawyers representing Harris pro bono. Kodish started work on the case in 2008 after it was reviewed by the Georgia Innocence Project.

After his 1999 conviction, a second lawyer represented Harris in an appeal -- an attempt to get a new trial -- that failed in 2004.

Harris’ new legal team argues that mistakes were made by both his prior lawyers and that he should be granted relief because of “ineffective assistance of counsel.”

The state Attorney General’s Office is representing the prosecution in the case.

Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the office, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Lawyers opposing the appeal argue that a judge already has ruled that the issue of whether Harris knew about the plea deal has already been decided by a lower court. They contend that Harris’ lawyers have failed to show how the lower court made errors while ruling that Harris’ second lawyer’s actions were reasonable, according to a legal brief associated with the appeal.

Harris’ legal team hopes a decision in their favor from the state’s highest court will result in either Harris being granted a new trial or a new plea offer for a shorter sentence.

“We think we are on the side of a really strong case and whatever the outcome, it should be heard,” Kodish said.

Lives changed

Rodricko Calloway Sr., 21, and his younger brother Marcus were walking with friends the night of Oct. 3, 1998.

Witnesses at Harris’ 1999 trial testified that Calvin Harris, Alvin’s brother, had tried to break up an argument on Bacon Street that was about to become physical. He ended up in a scuffle with three men, including Marcus Calloway, 19.

Someone called Alvin Harris.

Later that night, a second fight broke out. It was the Calloway brothers fist-fighting with the Harris brothers.

At some point, shots rang out and both Calloway brothers were shot.

Alvin Harris has admitted shooting Rodricko and Marcus Calloway, but argues he was justified because he alleges they were beating his brother, Calvin.

Alvin was 24, a year older than his brother.

A Bibb County sheriff’s deputy testified at the trial that the Calloway brothers were gang members.

In an interview last week, Marcus Calloway said the fight didn’t have anything to do with a gang. But he said he doesn’t remember what the fight was about.

Marcus Calloway said that after he was shot, he fell face down in a yard in the 600 block of Hanson Street.

He couldn’t see where his brother, Rodricko, fell.

“I was like, ‘y’all go check on him, because I’m all right,’’’ Calloway said.

Betty Calloway went to Hanson Street after hearing her sons had been wounded.

Since Rodricko was more seriously injured than Marcus, she rode with him to the hospital. He didn’t survive.

Marcus underwent emergency surgery.

The bullet struck him in his lower back, paralyzing him from the waist down.

After several weeks of rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, he regained the use of his legs and now walks with a limp.

Tomekia Sherman is raising Rodricko Jr. and her other child with Rodricko Sr., 13-year-old Briana.

She and Rodricko had been high school sweethearts at Southwest High School. They began dating when she was a freshman and he was a junior.

He dropped out for a semester but later went back to school after finding out he would be a father.

“He wanted his kids to be proud of him,” Sherman said.

Rodricko Jr. keeps his father’s high school diploma on his bedroom dresser.

Rodricko Calloway Sr. died in the fall of Sherman’s senior year.

In the days after his death, she made a promise that no one else would raise the children.

Although she has dated, she has never married.

Sherman said Alvin Harris shouldn’t ever want to appeal his sentence.

“If he knew how I have to wake up every morning and get my kids ready by myself,” she said, crying, he would know “he got it easy.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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