CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – It took nearly a week, but 12 jurors were finally seated in the trial of a man accused in the Sunhouse convenience store murders and robberies.
Opening statements quickly got underway Friday afternoon in Jerome Jenkins’ death penalty trial. He’s charged with two counts of murder, three counts of armed robbery, three counts of using a firearm during a violent crime and one count of attempted murder.
During opening statements, Jenkins’ defense attorney Ralph Wilson said something that caught some off-guard.
“I listened to the solicitor’s presentation, and a lot of what he said to you is absolutely true. I’ll tell you this right up front, straight up... Jerome Jenkins is guilty,” Wilson said.
Wilson explained to the jurors the reason why they’re in court is so that they can get to the second phase of the trial which is sentencing.
Death penalty trials can be split into two phases. The judge explained to jurors earlier in the week that if the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the case and trial will end there. However, if the defendant is found guilty by the jury, the trial will move into the sentencing phase after a 24-hour cooling off period.
In the sentencing phase, the jury is tasked with either sentencing the person on trial to life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
“Because the only way he can have 12 jurors decide what his fate is is to go through this process,” Wilson said.
Several witnesses took the stand Friday night, including former employee Jimmy Mczeke, who said he was inside the Sunhouse convenience store the night of Jan. 2, 2015 when the deadly shots were fired.
“I waited about 15 minutes and I didn’t hear nothing. Then I cracked the door. All I seen was smoke, and I ran out along the side of the wall and ran out the door,” Mczeke said.
A crime scene investigator testified about the pictures she took at the scene of the crime and the evidence collected.
Other law enforcement officers also took the stand, testifying about the surveillance video obtained from the Sunhouse convenience store on the corner of Highway 905 and Red Bluff Road.
Testimony will pick back up at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.