Defense attorneys say shooting not about revenge

Not GuiltyAmerican Press composite

Woodrow Karey Jr. was found not guilty of manslaughter Wednesday in state district court after a jury deliberated for three hours. 

Karey, 58, told jurors this week that he shot Ronald J. Harris, 51, twice with a shotgun on Sept. 27, 2013, at Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center because the pastor had become a threat to his family, had raped his wife, and was “treacherous.” 

In a trial that lasted eight days counting jury selection, prosecutors said Harris was having an affair with Karey’s wife; the defense said Karey’s wife was raped by Harris for years.

Judge Clayton Davis, as the jury prepared to deliver its verdict, told the courtroom: “There are no winners or losers. Emotions are high but we don’t want outbursts or cheers from either side. This has been rough on all of us. We have a system and we have to abide by it.” 

Moments after the verdict, Todd S. Clemons and Adam Johnson, defense attorneys for Karey, said their client stated just before the verdict came in that he would accept whatever verdict jurors returned and would be at “peace” with it.

“Woodrow had to defend himself, his household, and his wife,” Clemons said. “Harris was a threat to him and he had to protect himself. We waited more than four years for Woodrow to have his day in court.”

Karey was originally indicted on a manslaughter charge, but prosecutors took the case back to a grand jury, resulting in a second-degree murder indictment. 

The state Supreme Court later threw out that charge, leaving only the manslaughter charge standing. 

Karey was released from jail in 2017 after four years behind bars when Davis reduced his bond from $500,000 to $50,000. 

Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth told the jury prior to its deliberations that Karey decided on the day of the shooting that he would become “judge, jury, and executioner.” She told the jury that Karey had wanted revenge but that the courtroom is a “place of justice; a place where society holds people accountable for their actions.”

Clemons said after the verdict that the shooting was not “revenge.” 

“No, it’s justice,” Clemons said. Referring to a series of vulgar texts that Harris had mistakenly sent to Karey that were intended for Karey’s wife, Clemons said, “Do not call another man’s wife a ‘piece of meat’; do not go to a man’s home and rape his wife; do not call another man’s wife a ‘stinky (expletive.)’ This is justice. He had the right to protect his family.” 

Karey said on the stand that it was difficult for him to reconcile the man he knew as his longtime pastor and friend with the man who sent those texts the week of the shooting. 

Several witnesses during the trial said the two men were once “like brothers.” Karey told jurors that he had been “blindsided” by all he had learned the week of the shooting regarding things he said his wife told him had taken place with Harris (rapes, beatings, stalking.) 

Killingsworth told the jury that, to many people, a church holds a lot of important and precious memories for them and is a holy place where people enjoy baptisms, fellowship with others of faith, weddings and other happy things, but that for those at Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center, their church became a “place of evil that stinks of the revenge of death.” 

Johnson said Karey was not trying to make a statement by shooting Harris in a church. 

“He met the threat where it was and that threat was at a church,” Johnson said. 

“It’s the right verdict; it’s justice. Woodrow defended his family and his home,” he said.