The mother of 21-year-old murder victim Douglas Cameron wept in court Thursday as a judge read the jury’s guilty verdict and sentenced his killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Thomas E. Sessions, Jr., 55, of LaGrange, was convicted in Troup County Superior Court of murder, aggravated assault and gun charges in the shooting death of Cameron in LaGrange on Aug. 9, 2013.
Sessions, represented by a public defender, asserted throughout the trial that he’d shot Cameron in self defense, saying he’d been robbed and threatened at gunpoint. The jury didn’t buy it.
In court, Sessions testified he left the Brown Street home after Cameron threatened him. He said he then returned with a shotgun. He testified he then fired one shot at Cameron — a shot the GBI medical examiner said strew more than 100 pellets into his lower-left back, resulting in fatal injuries. Sessions admitted to leaving Cameron in the street, and tossing the murder weapon in a nearby lot.
A Brown Street resident called 911 after the shooting. When police arrived, Cameron was alive and talking. The dash-cam video showed policemen working to keep Cameron conscious and alive.
“Stay with me, stay with me, keep looking at me,” LaGrange Police officers repeatedly told the victim.
Cameron died after surgery in an Atlanta hospital. Before his death, Cameron told police he didn’t know who shot him.
Sessions claimed he saw a gun on Cameron when he returned with the shotgun. That’s why he shot Cameron — that, and because Cameron robbed and threatened him, he said in that order.
During the trial, jurors saw graphic photographs of the murder victim’s body, dash-cam video from the first police cruiser to arrive, the murder weapon and interviews with witnesses immediately following the shooting.
Sessions’ finger prints and DNA were found on a single-action shotgun that a juror told the Daily News was in such bad shape, the jury was surprised it didn’t explode in Session’s hands. “It was practically duct taped together,” a juror told the Daily News after the trial ended.
Eyewitnesses said that evening they saw Sessions, called “T-Set” by acquaintances, and Cameron in the Brown Street home discussing an unpaid debt. The prosecution asserted Sessions went to the home to buy cocaine from Cameron — but Cameron refused to sell it to him. Multiple witnesses said they saw the discussion, described as calm. After the discussion, Sessions went to his home and retrieved his gun, the prosecution said. No witnesses said they saw a gun on Cameron.
One witness said she saw Sessions return to Brown Street from the side of the adjacent vacant home, quietly stepping behind Cameron with the gun drawn. “No, T-Set, no!,” the woman said she screamed just before Sessions fired.
Cameron’s companion that evening said he saw Sessions coming before Cameron did and took off running. He said he hid in a bush immediately following the shooting.
THE CLOSING ARGUMENTS
The defense all along claimed that Sessions shot Cameron in self defense, after Cameron had threatened to kill him over the unpaid debt. She asked the jury to convict Sessions of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
The defense said the disagreement that evening wasn’t about drugs at all — it was about a “shakedown,” referring to a $55 debt the defense claimed was borrowed for a card game — money Sessions said he repaid to Cameron’s companion weeks before the shooting. When Cameron saw Sessions that evening, he denied ever being repaid and ordered him to pay again, threatening him if he didn’t pay.
Prosecutor Monique Kirby, of the Coweta Judical Circuit, asserted that Sessions left the home that night, enraged that Cameron wouldn’t sell him more drugs. That’s why, she said, he returned with a gun and shot him.
The jury was made up of 11 men and 1 woman. They deliberated for just an hour before convicting Sessions.
“For us, it was the fact that he left the house and came back,” a juror told the Daily News after the trial. “He had time to think about what he was doing.”
Jurors didn’t buy the defense’s assertion that Cameron was a dangerous drug dealer, either, the juror said.
“Regardless of what kind of activity you partake in — no one deserves to be murdered,” he said.
The juror said everyone in the deliberation room was active in the discussion to convict Sessions, and he believes the justice system worked.
After his conviction, Sessions has 30 days to either appeal his conviction or motion for a new trial. If he motions for a new trial and the judge denies it, he has another 30 days from that decision to appeal to a higher court.
It is not yet known if Sessions will motion for a new trial or appeal.
Read LaGrange Daily News online and in print for updates on Session’s future.