Quinten PlummerThe Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — Brandon Henry rested his head on a desk Tuesday morning as Southern Circuit Judge Frank Horkan announced the jury’s guilty verdict and handed down a life sentence for the 2010 murder of a Valdosta man.
Henry, 23, was convicted for the Aug. 9, 2010, murder of John Golden, 45, of Valdosta. Golden had been grilling food on his porch where Henry unloaded 15 shots into the husband, father and former employee of Valdosta State University’s plant operations.
“The facts of this case are true and un-rebutted,” said Assistant Southern District Attorney Brad Shealy during his closing arguments. “John Golden died on the streets of Valdosta in worse fashion than some soldiers in the war. Is this what the people want from the City of Valdosta?”
After roughly an hour of deliberation, the jury returned with a response of “No.”
Henry was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for his burglary conviction, a life sentence for his murder conviction and five years imprisonment for the conviction of possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime. All of his sentences must be served consecutively.
Friends and family of the late John Golden took the first steps in repairing the damage inflicted by a quick temper and a high-powered assault rifle. The family had been watchful and prayerful, rising and falling with each of the two-day trial’s surges and break waves.
“My family and I are happy that justice has been served today,” said Golden’s step-daughter, Nikki Robinson.
“Thank God for justice,” said Golden’s widow, Carla, as she emerged briefly from a swarm of loved ones.
Prior to the verdict, Shealy continued his day one onslaught of witnesses as he introduced more expert testimony and subpoenaed associates of Henry.
Golden’s murder came immediately after a brawl-dampened party near his Somerlin Street residence. Both Golden and Henry had played peacemaker as they each dispersed at least one fight that night.
Henry left the party, forcibly removed a rifle from his ex-girlfriend’s residence and returned to Somerlin Street with the intent to kill someone.
One witness, who had been at the party, said she heard Henry screaming and asking for the people who had been standing outside with their shirts off. She said he wanted to know where they lived.
“I saw him when he came around the corner with the gun in a trash bag,” said the witness. “I asked him what was inside of the bag. He said, ‘a [expletive] AK-47 and it’s fully loaded.’”
The witness said she left for her car. As she headed for the car, she heard gun shots at the house across the street.
“I heard three shots and I saw (Henry) step up to the porch and unload the gun,” said the witness.
After the prosecutor had exhausted his registry of witnesses, none of whom had willingly took the stand, Henry elected to take the stand himself. It was a move that his counsel, Billy Folsom, strongly opposed, which he made clear after he asked that the jury be excused briefly.
Henry’s associates had timidly taken the stand before him, many hinting to fears of repercussions, but the defendant himself wanted to privately testify.
“Your honor, will you ask the public to step outside while I testify,” said Henry before taking the stand.
His request was denied, as the judge reminded him that the proceedings were public.
Henry attempted to appeal to the emotions of the jurors, as he was his only character witness.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to the Golden family,” said Henry. “I didn’t know him and I’m not the person responsible for this crime.”
During Shealy’s dramatic cross-examination of Henry’s accounts of the Aug. 9, 2010 shooting, the defendant claimed he’d been framed for the crime.
“I know detectives will threaten people into giving false statements, because they threatened me,” said Henry, claiming a police detective planted bullets behind a fence. “He labeled me a suspect and said I was suspected of another crime. If he didn’t (set me up), then one of those other detectives did.”
Henry also gave an explanation as to why he had been found with a shaven head and drenched in bleach when he was arrested at an ex-girlfriend’s Palm Place residence two days after the shooting.
He shaved his head because he had been stung by a bee, he reasoned, and he was using bleach as an additive to his bath water.
Shealy stated that the State of Georgia had no intentions of seeking the death penalty, though Henry’s crimes are punishable by death.
Henry’s parole has not been revoked, but it will be at least 30 years before he’ll be eligible for monitored release. Judge Horkan took Henry’s youth into account when he weighed whether to allow parole.
Outside of the courtroom, a friend of Golden’s spoke.
“John [Golden] was a very well-mannered guy and he was well liked,” said James Nelson. “He and his family don’t deserve any of what has happened to them. Both families here have lost a lot, and it’s time that we as a people take violence out of the equation and speak up about it when it does happen.”