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Shooting victim once ‘medically dead’ speaks at assailant’s sentencing

Reuben Lawrence
Reuben Lawrence

Reuben Scott Lawrence was lucky James Fordham didn’t stay dead.

Technically Fordham died at the hospital after Lawrence shot him in the chest during an attempted armed robbery on Aug. 25, 2013. Fordham “flatlined,” meaning his heart stopped, but doctors were able to revive him, authorities said.

Had their efforts failed, Lawrence might have been facing a murder charge Thursday before Judge Frank Jordan Jr. Instead he pleaded guilty to armed robbery, aggravated assault and attempting to commit a felony.

Assistant District Attorney George Lipscomb told Jordan that Fordham was “medically dead at the hospital” after the shooting, before physicians saved his life. Fordham still has not regained the full use of an arm, Lipscomb said.

He said Lawrence, 23, was with 27-year-old Quterius Markel Crowell Sr. when they confronted Fordham outside a Columbus “house party,” where Lawrence put the pistol to Fordham’s chest and pulled the trigger before Fordham could surrender any money in the robbery. The suspects then drove off.

Crowell pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on Jan. 13, 2015, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Fordham was in court Thursday for Lawrence’s guilty plea and sentence, and said the defendant deserved a harsher penalty.

“It’s a miracle that I’m sitting here today speaking to you,” he told Jordan.

He said he spent nights praying he would be able to forgive Lawrence.

“I couldn’t sleep because I was in so much pain,” he said.

Fordham’s assault was one of three August 2013 robberies in which police implicated Lawrence. He also was charged with robbing a man of a wallet containing $8 on Aug. 23 outside BD&K Foods at 600 Andrews Road, where Nyesha Janese Shorter was accused of acting as his getaway driver. Shorter, 22, has pleaded guilty to robbery.

Authorities also charged Lawrence and Mason Aaron London III with robbing a man of his keys, cellphone and $14 at North Lumpkin Road and 32nd Avenue on Aug. 24. London, 24, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced Feb. 3 to serve 10 years in prison and 20 on probation.

Lawrence’s attorney Michael Eddings asked Jordan for a lighter sentence so that his client might have a chance to redeem himself. Lawrence has had a mental illness most of his life, Eddings said.

A psychological evaluation diagnosed him with attention deficit disorder. His mother testified he was born in prison when she was incarcerated in Milledgeville, Ga., and grew up in the care of a great aunt. The aunt testified Lawrence becomes agitated when he doesn’t take his medication.

Lawrence briefly addressed the court: “I apologize for what happened to him the night of the house party,” he said of Fordham.

Lawrence slumped back in his chair, shaking his head, when Jordan delivered the sentence.