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Joshua Wright (center) was found “not guilty” on robbery charges late Friday afternoon. Here he is pictured with defense attorney Jackie Patterson (right) and co-defense Brandon Dixon. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)

It’s probably not often that a robbery defendant admits to participating in that robbery in court and is still found “not guilty” by the same jury who heard the confession, but that’s what happened late Friday afternoon in Fayette County Superior Court.
On Tuesday morning of last week, Joshua Wright’s defense attorney Jackie Patterson stood beside Wright and told the jury he would be speaking in the voice of his client during his opening arguments. Patterson on Wright’s behalf then admitted to participating in the background of a March 18, 2014 armed robbery in which his friends Armoni Strozer, then 16, and Malik Miles, then 17, pulled starter pistols on a man who met the trio at the Heritage Lakes subdivision clubhouse under the auspices of purchasing a Craigslist-advertised iPhone for $300 cash.
Miles and Strozier grabbed the cash and, with Wright in tow, jumped back over the fence into Wright’s backyard. The three friends then went back inside Wright’s house where they split the money evenly, $100 apiece.
Speaking for Wright, Patterson said he did not know guns would be involved. He said he thought they were just going to snatch the cash and outrun the victim.
“Once I saw that gun, I changed my mind altogether,” Patterson said for Wright. “Yes, I took the $100. That was very, very bad judgment on my part.”
Wright also admitted to driving his friends the next afternoon to the clubhouse in the nearby Brandon Mill subdivision where they robbed two more people, also respondents to a Craigslist iPhone ad. However, Wright claims he was only heading into that neighborhood to visit a girl who he had been trying to see against her father’s wishes. He said his friends, who had traveled with him to his home by school bus, asked for a lift via Wright’s brother’s car to the clubhouse so he obliged them by dropping them off.
Strozier and Miles also testified that Wright drove off. When they finished the second-day robbery at gunpoint, Wright was not there at first to pick them up, so the pair began running. A few moments later, Wright drove by and picked them both up and took them home. Wright says he was leaving the neighborhood to meet his mother at her business when he happened to see his friends again and picked them up.
Assistant District Attorney David McDade made the case that Wright definitely knew the first-day victim and the first of the two victims on the second would be robbed. Court insiders opined throughout the week that Wright would be found guilty on all three counts of Robbery, which had been reduced from the original Armed Robbery indictment in Wright’s case.
When the jury had been deliberating well into Friday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Mack Crawford asked them how close they were to a verdict, and the jury foreman responded that they were in agreement on two counts but irreconcilably in disagreement on the third. At that point, many court insiders thought that either the jury was going to find Wright guilty on the first-day charge and on one of the second-day charges. A second, less likely, scenario was that perhaps a sole juror was going to hold out “not guilty” on all three counts, but the rest of the jury wanted to at least convict on the first-day charge.
Everyone but the jury seemed surprised late Friday afternoon when the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict for the first-day charge and one of the second-day charges. Judge Crawford had already said he would mistrial the hung charge, whichever it turned out to be, because the jury had already been deliberating for eight hours in total and the jury foreman indicated to him that more time would not necessarily be helpful in bringing the jury together.
The prosecution team left the courtroom quickly and quietly while Patterson, his client, and the Wright Family and friends celebrated with tears and hugs. As jurors entered the hallway, several made their way to Patterson and Wright to give congratulations, one juror taking time to whisper in Patterson’s ear, but none would take time to speak to the media or publicly explain how they arrived at their decision.
Miles and Strozier, who both pled guilty last year, are serving sentences behind bars. Wright says he is looking forward to returning to college in a few weeks as a sophomore studying social work.
“I’m extremely happy,” Wright said on the justice center steps after the verdict. “I’m grateful, appreciative, and ready to start my life.”
When asked what the jury shared with him after the trial, Wright said, “They were seeing that kids make mistakes at times, and they wanted to give me a second chance.”
“They saw a good kid, and they saw that he did not commit these crimes,” Patterson said. “He was falsely accused, and the jury saw that he was falsely accused.
“We’re elated, and we’re looking forward to him moving on with his life,” Patterson added.
When asked if the criminal trial process, which included trial and mistrial for these same offenses last fall, had affected Wright, he said he had learned from his mistakes.
“I’m never going to be here again,” Wright said. “I might not even speed.”