Robert Jamal Wiggins, 23, was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced Friday in a 2016 Cusseta home invasion that left an 85-year-old man dead.
Wiggins was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole immediately after the verdict.
The sentence was the only option that judge had based on the charge, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes told the Opelika-Auburn News.
Wiggins was convicted in the capital murder of Curtis Bennie Rudd. He is the second of four defendants to go to trial and is the second to be convicted.
“This is the second person involved in this heinous crime to be convicted by a jury and sentenced to life without the parole,” Hughes said. “We are grateful to be able to represent the Rudd family and continue to obtain justice on their behalf."
'Evidence is the evidence'
Wiggins’ attorney, William Whatley, argued during the trial that the defendant did not have the intent to kill Rudd, and therefore should not be found guilty of capital murder. During Whatley’s closing statement, he asked the jury to pay attention to the facts.
“The evidence is the evidence,” he stated. “I don’t think you should speculate on what happened.”
Whatley added he believes the jury should not get caught up in the emotion in the case.
“It’s very emotional,” he said. “But your verdict cannot be based on emotion."
Co-defendant Davonte Mike was convicted of capital murder in November 2018 by a Lee County jury and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Khaleef Jevante Marshall and Shakeela Dailey also are charged in this case.
Wiggins' trial began Tuesday in Judge Christopher Hughes’ courtroom at the Lee County Justice Center in Opelika and concluded Friday afternoon. The jury deliberated for two hours before reaching a verdict, Hughes said.
The case was prosecuted by Hughes and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jessica Ventiere.
Whatley and Juliana Taylor represented Wiggins.
Wiggins was the last person to testify Friday morning during the trial.
Wiggins, a Chicago native, didn’t know Dailey until the pair met while working at BurgerFi in October 2015. It was through her that he met Mike and Marshall, whom he had known for barely a month in January 2016, Wiggins testified.
Whatley then brought Wiggins back to Jan. 18, 2016 and Jan. 19, 2016, the hours in which the incident occurred.
Earlier that day, Wiggins stated, he worked the early shift at BurgerFi before going to Dailey’s home. However, he was not at Dailey’s residence the whole night; he left a couple of times.
The final time the group left the residence was around 11:30 p.m. to midnight. The group left in Wiggins’ vehicle and the destination was not clear to Wiggins. However, Mike knew exactly where they were going, Wiggins testified.
“He directed turn-by-turn,” he said.
The group ultimately came to a stop at a house unknown to Wiggins at the time, he testified. Not long after the vehicle stopped, Mike and Marshall got out of the vehicle. Wiggins then followed the pair’s lead about 15-20 seconds after they exited the car, he testified.
The next thing he knew, the door was being kicked in. Wiggins then followed Mike and Marshall into the home, which was dark until he saw something turn on.
“I had noticed that the light had flicked on,” Wiggins testified. “The bedroom towards the bedroom hallway area.”
Once he saw the light on, Wiggins testified that he went to try to find “cover.” The shooting started soon afterward. Once the shooting began, Wiggins tried to shield himself behind a wall, he testified.
Wiggins testified that Mike was the gunman but couldn’t tell who the other person shooting was, which was later discovered to be Rudd.
During the shooting, Wiggins was shot in the back, which he told the group once they had exited the home, he testified.
Following the incident, the group returned to Dailey’s home before Mike took Wiggins to the hospital for the gunshot wound. While in the hospital, he gave a false statement to police about the gunshot wound due to the comments made by another.
“I had got a call from Davonte Mike telling me, you know, reminding me that if police come talk to me to just tell them that I got shot in Raintree (an area of Opelika),” Wiggins testified.
While recovering in the hospital, Wiggins testified that he saw a newspaper stating that a man was killed. That’s when he asked to talk to police again because he was only thinking about the victim.
“I had told them what happened towards who shot and how it happened,” Wiggins testified.
Wiggins added that he did not tell police everything he knew, but for a certain reason.
“At the time I was only thinking about Mr. Rudd that had got killed,” he testified.
Wiggins later revealed in testimony that the gun used in the incident was a gun he stole from his cousin. It was passed down to the cousin from his grandfather.
During cross-examination, Hughes directly asked Wiggins why he lied about where he was shot.
“The question is you lied about being shot on Raintree to cover up what happened at the Rudd house. Correct?” Hughes asked Wiggins.
Hughes then asked, one by one, who Wiggins was covering up for: Mike, Marshall, Dailey and himself. Wiggins responded to each question by saying yes.
Also, Hughes brought up the statement Wiggins gave police once he requested them to come to the hospital.
“You didn’t tell police… 'I saw he died. I want to talk to you,'” Hughes asked. “You told them, 'I found out I’m a suspect in this murder, I need to talk to you.' Isn’t that correct?”
Wiggins responded by stating he did not remember. Hughes once again referenced the words he repeated were from Wiggins’ recorded statement that was shown to the court earlier in the trial.
During cross-examination, Wiggins testified that he willingly participated in a burglary and went into the Rudds' home on his own will.