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High court upholds former AUC student's life sentence for triple shooting

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A Morris Brown College student shot his girlfriend in the head and killed her two roommates. On Monday, more than a decade later, the state’s highest court decided he will remain in prison for the rest of his life.

Mr. Jason Pierce claimed his constitutional right against double jeopardy was violated by his resentence to life in prison after the charges against him were thrown out. But the Supreme Court of Georgia disagreed.

Mr. Pierce, who is from Boston, shot the three 18-year-old girls in the head. Only his girlfriend survived.

The triple shooting happened Aug. 26, when Mr. Pierce, then 21, was enrolled at Morris Brown College, according to federal court documents.

His girlfriend, Ms. Shunae Allen, was enrolled in Atlanta Metropolitan College and shared a townhouse in East Point with Ms. Patrice Lassiter, also enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan, and Ms. Monique Brown, who was due to start as a freshman at Clark Atlanta University.

The teenagers had been friends in Boston before they moved to Atlanta.

Prosecutors said all four went to a movie together the night before, but after arriving home, Mr. Pierce started accusing Ms. Allen of cheating on him. The accusation continued into the next morning when Mr. Pierce entered his girlfriend’s room, closed the door and called to her.

“He then pulled out a gun and pointed it at her," the court documents show. "Asking if she was setting him up, she said no, and he shot her in the cheek. She fell to the ground and he left the room.”

Ms. Allen later said after she heard more gunshots, she jumped up, closed the door and called 911.

“When she heard Pierce leave, she opened the door and found Lassiter and Brown, both of whom had been shot in their heads and died of their wounds,” the court report shows.

Mr. Pierce fled back to Boston and after a shootout with police, was arrested a week later.

He was indicted in 1999 and pleaded guilty in 2003 to two counts of malice murder and aggravated assault to avoid the death penalty.

In 2011, the state Supreme Court threw out his sentences to life without parole because the trial court had not specified an aggravating circumstance for each murder, which is required for a sentence of life.

Mr. Pierce filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas to all the charges and then filed a motion, claiming it would be double jeopardy to continue prosecuting him.

But when the State again announced it would seek the death penalty, Mr. Pierce quickly filed a motion asking the court to vacate its order allowing him to withdraw his guilty pleas.

As for his argument about double jeopardy, the Supreme Court said it disagrees.

“There was not in this case a second prosecution and the trial court did not err by denying [Pierce’s] motion….”

The court did find the existence of four aggravating circumstances to support the sentence of life without parole.