The Wilson Times

Monday, January 13, 2014 11:47 PM

Convicted killer tossed from court

By Olivia Neeley | Times Staff Writer

A judge removed a man accused of murder from court Monday after he launched into a profanity-laden rant. The heated exchange began when the murder victim’s family members addressed the court during a plea proceeding.

The defendant, Jamaal Jemel Hilliard, appeared in Wilson County Superior Court and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit common law robbery in the killing of 29-year-old Ronnie Earl Griffin Jr..

Griffin was found dead inside his car on Oct. 24, 2012, after a failed robbery attempt outside Beacon Pointe apartments.

"I had a lot to say to you, but hearing you talk and laugh and look up at the ceiling, I realize how ignorant and uneducated you are …,” the victim’s brother, James Griffin, told the accused. "Look at you. You are laughing.”

Hilliard, 26, of Tarboro, fired back at the victim’s brother.

"You ain’t talking about nothing, man,” Hilliard said. "You all got me (expletive deleted) up, man. You all ain’t talking about (expletive deleted). (Expletive deleted) you, man.”

"Go to prison, you little (expletive deleted),” the victim’s brother continued. "You couldn’t handle my brother with your hands. That’s why you had to shoot him.”

"Bang, bang, bang, (expletive),” Hilliard said, making a motion with his hands.

Griffin’s brother became more emotional.

"Sit your little (expletive deleted) down you little (expletive deleted),” the brother said.

Hilliard continued to say, "Bang, bang, bang” and used more profanity in open court.

Beaufort County Superior Court Judge Wayland J. Sermons Jr. removed Hilliard after he became "loud, abusive” and the court felt the safety of the people in the courtroom was threatened by the exchange between the family of the victims and the defendant.

Hilliard was later escorted back to court after he calmed down. He was sentenced to roughly 19 to 24 ½ years in prison.


Before Hilliard’s outbursts Monday, he addressed the court

"I mean I understand the family over there, whatever, you know,” Hilliard said told the judge. "What happened, happened. I can’t take it back. It is what it is, you know,” Hilliard continued. "Only thing I can say is these streets, you play these street games, these street things happen, you know what I’m saying? Can’t bring him back. Nobody can bring him back. He gone. God bless the dead.”


Denise Griffin, the victim’s mother, questioned Hilliard on why he pulled the trigger that left her son dead.

"Why did you take my son from me, Jamaal?” she said. "Why? ... We we’re best friends. Why did you take my son? Why? Why? I hate you. I hope you rot .... Oh, my God, I hate you so bad.”

She said her son’s death has taken a toll on the entire family, especially her son’s children.

"When he saw his daddy in that ... casket, he lost it,” she said about her grandson. "He’s got four beautiful kids, Jamaal. Them kids need their daddy. I need my son. My kids need their brother. His wife ....”

Denise Griffin was reeling from the pain.

"I know you don’t give a (expletive deleted), all right?” she continued. "I know you don’t, but you took something precious from me. You didn’t only take my baby, you took a piece of my heart. I hope you rot in prison.”

Griffin’s mother also told the judge she wanted him to know that her son was a good person who worked hard and took care of his family. But he struggled with drug addiction.

"I hate that,” she told the judge. "But Ronnie was a good soul .... He was a good daddy.”

She also told the court her son wrote a letter to God. It’s framed and sits in her bedroom.

"God, please help me get away from this addiction,” she said the letter read. "If I can’t do it, at least do it for my family.”

"The boy was trying,” she told the judge.

Griffin’s wife, Kristina Griffin, also spoke.

She said her husband of nearly 10 years would have given any and everything Hilliard wanted when trying to rob him on that October day.

"Because he knew he had a wife and …kids,” she said. "And a mom and dad, you know, at home. He would have given anybody the shirt off his back and he’s done it plenty of times .... He would have given anything.”


Police found Griffin’s body in a car at 1901 Lipscomb Road shortly before 10 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2012, after Beacon Pointe Apartment residents reported gunshots.

"Mr. Griffin will not come back and they will never see their son again,” Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Charles Thomas told the court Monday. "His problem is that he had an addiction and that’s what led to him running into this unfortunate individual and this occurring.”

Thomas told the court Griffin was a hard worker and wasn’t a threat to anybody.

"This resolution will never be able to bring Ronnie back to his family,” Thomas told The Wilson Times. "But we hope this outcome will give the family some closure to this senseless tragedy.”

Hilliard’s attorney, Phil Lane, told the court Monday that it was a "very unfortunate accident.”

"As Mr. Hilliard said, it was not supposed to happen the way that it did,” he said.

Lane asked the judge to consider consolidating the charges into one judgment.


Authorities first charged 28-year-old Darrion Devon Williams of Rocky Mount in Griffin’s killing. In a separate court proceeding Monday, Williams pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of second-degree murder in the killing. He was sentenced to roughly six to eight years in prison. Williams also pleaded guilty to the sale of cocaine stemming from an Edgecombe County case, which was unrelated. He received roughly 1 ½ to two years in prison for that charge.

Wilson police and U.S. Marshals Service agents caught Hilliard and 19-year-old Rameik Anderson in Edgecombe County a couple of weeks after the killing. Anderson, whose case is still pending, is charged with acting as an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in the case. He was released on $50,000 bond on Nov. 19.

While Griffin was familiar with Williams, he did not know Hilliard, officials said.|265-7879

©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
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