Jolly guilty plea expected Tuesday in Bibb deputy slaying

obrown@macon.comNovember 12, 2012 

Damon Jolly is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to killing a Bibb County sheriff’s deputy, thereby avoiding the death penalty.

Jolly is charged with murder in the 2006 shooting death of deputy Joseph Whitehead. Whitehead and a dozen other officers were serving a “no-knock” warrant during a drug raid at a house off Columbus Road when shots were fired. Jolly was arrested soon afterward and has been in prison for more than 6 1/2 years awaiting trial.

Authorities would not discuss the prospects of a plea deal. Asked about the chances of a guilty plea Tuesday by the 27-year-old Jolly, however, one law enforcement source said Monday: “That is a highly likely occurrence.”

A plea session is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Tillman E. “Tripp” Self III. Since last week, authorities have contacted relatives of Whitehead to alert them to the possibility. Some of them will be in court -- along with sheriff’s deputies -- should the plea deal go forward as planned.

It’s possible that negotiations could break down and that the plea might not happen.

Another defendant in the case, 28-year-old Antron Fair, has already pleaded guilty to murder and drawn a life sentence with the possibility of parole. During Fair’s plea session, prosecutors said that the shot that killed Whitehead inside the Atherton Street house was fired from Jolly’s gun.

As part of his deal, Fair has been slated to testify at Jolly’s trial. That trial is scheduled to begin next week in Savannah, where the proceeding was moved because of pretrial publicity in the case. Jury selection involving hundreds of prospective jurors is set to begin Monday, if need be.

A trial in the case could last more than a month and cost up to $75,000, authorities have said, an expense that would be avoided should Tuesday’s plea go through.

Three other people were initially charged in the case.

Charges against then 20-year-old Cynthia Greene have been “dead docketed,” removed from active prosecution.

Cases are still being prosecuted against Hassan Harclerode and Thomas Mason Porter Jr. Both of them face murder and drug charges stemming from the raid.

Harclerode, 35, is serving a federal prison sentence for maintaining a place to distribute a controlled substance.

Porter, 27, also served time in federal prison after pleading guilty to concealing a felony in 2008. He was released on bond on the murder and drug charges in June 2010 on conditions that included electronic monitoring.

Staff writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report. To contact writer Oby Brown, call 744-4396.

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