UPDATE: Two Macon men convicted in rape, torture of woman

A Bibb County jury convicted two men this afternoon of brutally torturing and raping a Macon woman for several hours in June 2005.

James Harris, 34 and Wendell Simmons, 41, each were found guilty of rape, sexual battery, aggravated battery and simple assault.

A third man, 26-year-old Terry Sherrod Jackson, also is charged but his case is being tried separately.

The jury started deliberating at about 11:30 a.m. and returned a verdict by mid-afternoon, but after the verdict was read aloud one of the jurors changed her mind when the defense attorneys asked that the individual jurors be askedto confirm their verdict.

The jurors resumed deliberations and returned an identical verdict at about 4:30 p.m. and each individually confirmed their verdict.

Sentencing will be held Thursday.

The 53-year-old Macon woman testified Monday that the men raped her repeatedly and sodomized her on the night of June 10, 2005, and the following morning.

But Harris and his longtime girlfriend testified Tuesday that he always has been at home by 11:30 p.m. to help care for the couple's autistic son, making it impossible that he was a party to the rape.

Harris admits he drove Simmons, Jackson and the woman to a house in the 700 block of Villa Esta Avenue on June 10, but said he left by about 11 p.m. and didn¹t go inside the house.

Simmons did not testify Tuesday and no defense evidence was entered on his behalf.

In closing arguments this morning, Harris's attorney pointed out inconsistencies in the woman's testimony and statements she made in 2005 to police and the nurse that examined her.

"She doesn¹t have a clear memory of the events," said Paul Christian, Harris¹s attorney.

Christian said the only evidence against Harris aside from the woman¹s testimony is her picking him from a photo-line up and identifying him as one of her attackers.

"Something happened, but it wasn't James Harris,"he said.

Simmons' lawyer, Randy Wynn, said his client passed a polygraph test saying "he wasn¹t there when the violence took place."

Wynn also questioned the woman¹s memory and went further to question her credibility based upon her history of drug and alcohol abuse at the time of the alleged rape.

Prosecutor Dorothy Hull walked in front of the jury with a photo of the injured woman as she addressed the jury for a final time this morning.

"Don't you think a woman would remember who did this to her?" Hull said, reminding the jurors that the woman told police and a nurse that three men had attacked her and that she has continued to say three men attacked her up through trial.

"She has never wavered from that,"Hull said. "(The woman) spent several hours with the men who did this to her."