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Cummins guilty on two counts of first...

Cummins guilty on two counts of first degree murder in St. Paddy’s Day killings

By: Shaun Yurtkuran ,    Russ Latino - June 19, 2024

Jordan Cummins, sitting next to Judge Faye Peterson. Cummins took the stand in his double murder trial. He was convicted on two counts of first degree murder Wednesday, June 19th.

Jackson, MS — Shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning a Hinds County jury reached a verdict in Jordan Cummins’ double murder trial. The jury found Cummins, 29, guilty of the first degree murders of Joshua Spann, 27, and Auden Jubilee Simpkins, 23.

The case, which stemmed from a shooting at the Hal & Mal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Jackson on March 25, 2023, garnered significant attention, along with a fair degree of controversy during the trial.

Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Gwen Agho (L) served as lead prosecutor in the case. Pictured here with Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens (C) and the family of Jubilee Simpkins (R) following the verdict.

Reached for comment after the verdict, Jubilee Simpkins’ father, Kelly Simpkins, expressed gratitude to investigators, the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office, Judge Faye Peterson and the jury in the case. Simpkins told Magnolia Tribune, “God has given us this system to punish the wrongdoer and vindicate the victim. And it worked.”

Simpkins went on to say that while the family is “thankful, there is nevertheless a sadness. Our daughter Jubilee is gone and her absence leaves a permanent scar. That pain was especially felt last Sunday, which was another Father’s Day without her infectious smile.”

Simpkins also expressed sadness for his daughter’s killer, saying that “even though it is the right result, it is still sad that a man will spend the rest of his life in jail. It’s just sad in so many respects.”

The jury’s verdict came on the heels of six full days of testimony and evidence. Prosecutors painted a picture of Cummins as an abusive man, who shot and killed good samaritans who had intervened to prevent Cummins from beating his girlfriend, Jenny Lukens.

The defense argued that Cummins acted in self-defense. Both Cummins and Lukens testified he had not been physically abusive toward her on the day of the shooting and that Cummins only fired his weapon that day after a group of individuals, which included Spann, approached Cummins’ car, opened the door, and began physically assaulting him.

Questions about Cummins’ and Lukens’ credibility featured prominently throughout the trial. So too did the events that preceded and followed the shooting, including a jailhouse confession tape recorded by Cummins.

The Prosecution’s Case

Hinds County prosecutors spent the first four days of the trial establishing, through witness testimony and forensic evidence, the sequence of events before, during, and after Cummins’ shooting of Spann and Simpkins. The state’s case was broken into three “phases.”

Initial witnesses focused on Cummins’ behavior prior to the shooting. Cummins was alleged to have had an altercation with his girlfriend, Jenny Lukens, and two of Lukens’ friends, Jordan Jaggar and Brooke McFarland, at a tent along the parade route. Jaggar and McFarland testified that Cummins was consuming alcohol that day, and McFarland said he had smoked marijuana, as well.

Jaggar, McFarland, and a third witness, Jacob Lofton, testified that Cummins had become physically violent with Lukens and had threatened to shoot McFarland when she intervened, specifically that he said he would “flatline the b–ch.” The witnesses all said that Cummins and Lukens left the tent after being asked to by Lofton. This incident occurred approximately half-an-hour before the shooting, according to Jaggar.

The second phase of the evidence presented by prosecutors focused on the shooting, itself. Cummins and Lukens walked back to their vehicle, which was parked outside of the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Video cameras captured their return to the vehicle. The cameras showed what appeared to be ongoing tensions between the couple.

Upon reaching their vehicle, Cummins prevented Lukens from entering the car, before angrily backing out of his parking space and hitting a vehicle behind him. He then straightened the car, stopped and got out. Lukens got into the driver’s seat and Cummins went around to the passenger seat.

The car sat for several moments before a group of individuals approached the passenger side of the vehicle. Cameras captured the confrontation that ensued. The prosecution called a series of witnesses that were part of the intervening group that day. They testified that they were driving along Jefferson Street in a truck owned by Kam Owens, when they saw Cummins beating Lukens in his parked car.

Witness Tiffany Smith testified that people in the truck were screaming “look, that boy is beating that girl!”

Owens, a current Capitol Police Officer, testified that he witnessed Cummins punching Lukens in the face. Owens said he approached Cummins’ car, opened the door, and began striking Cummins to get him off of Lukens.

In the tense moments that followed, Cummins began firing his weapon into the crowd of intervenors, striking Joshua Spann, and also Jubilee Simpkins. Simpkins had not approached the car that day, but had remained in the back of Owens’ truck.

Spann had approached and had drawn two guns from his backpack as the events unfolded, handing one to Jamari “Vegas” Russell. The sequencing of when Spann pulled the guns relative to Cummins became an issue during the course of the trial.

The third phase of the prosecution’s evidence included a cell phone video taped from the Raymond Detention Center by Cummins after being apprehended. In the tape, the accused killer bragged about killing Spann and Simpkins. The prosecution rested its case last Friday.

The Defense

The defense began its case on Monday and concluded by Tuesday afternoon. Among its witnesses were Lukens and Cummins. Lukens appeared in court in a jail jumpsuit and shackles. She is being held on a revoked bond for allegedly hindering the prosecution of Cummins and for subsequently violating a “no contact” order that prevented her from interacting with Cummins.

During her direct examination, Lukens indicated that Cummins had not physically assaulted her at the tent in the manner described by Jaggar and McFarland at the tent. She also denied that he threatened to shoot McFarland. She testified they were asked to leave because of a verbal altercation between Cummins, Lukens, Jaggar, and McFarland.

Lukens told the jury that when they got back to their car she refused to get in if Cummins was driving, because he had consumed alcohol. She said the two were arguing about what had unfolded at the tent, but that he did not strike her in the car. Lukens said he had hit the back of her seat and the dashboard during the course of the argument.

According to Lukens, as they were arguing, Owens approached the car, opened the door and began hitting Cummins without provocation. Lukens testified that Cummins was dazed and nearly knocked out. She told the jury she threw her body over Cummins and began yelling at the group of intervenors to mind its own business. She reported that Owens told her “I am just trying to help you.”

Lukens testified that Spann pulled a pistol from a backpack and passed it to “Vegas” (Jamari Russell) before he pulled a second pistol from the backpack and pointed it at Cummins. She said that “she did not think that they would leave alive that day.” Lukens testified that it was only after Spann pulled his weapons that Cummins retrieved his gun from the floorboard of the vehicle and began firing.

On cross-examination, Lukens’ credibility was attacked. Prosecutors noted that she had been involved the week prior in a scheme to coordinate testimony between witnesses — a scheme which saw Cummins’ mother arrested in open court for witness tampering.

Responding to her denials that Cummins had ever been violent toward her, prosecutors threatened to introduce text messages with Jaggar. Those texts showed Lukens admitted to prior physical altercations. Lukens revised her testimony and admitted Cummins had been violent in the past, but that it was only in retaliation for her own violence toward him.

Cummins chose to take the witness stand in his own defense. Like Lukens, he testified that he did not hit her that day. He testified that “Kam Owens opened the car door and punched me repeatedly in the face.” Cummins went on to say that Spann said to him that he was “going to beat the f–k out of me.”

Cummins also testified that Spann pulled the groups’ guns first and that he was in fear for his life when he began firing.

Assistant District Attorney Gwen Agho’s cross-examination questioned Cummins’ story about Spann’s timing on drawing his guns, and also whether Spann had truly pointed a weapon at Cummins. Agho noted that Spann was shot, not in the front of his body, but in the side, and argued the shot placement did not support Cummins’ statement that Spann had been pointing the gun at him.

The Close

Closing arguments in the case began late Tuesday afternoon. Cummins’ attorney, Kellum, argued that the testimony of the prosecutions’ witnesses was not credible, alluding to personal animus between some of the witnesses and Cummins, alleged witness self-interest, and long delays before witnesses like Jaggar came forward to authorities.

Kellum’s argument depended on convincing the jury that Cummins acted in self-defense. He pointed to the fact that Owens initiated physical violence with Cummins, arguing to the jury that “Joshua Spann and Jubilee Simpkins would still be alive today if it were not for Kam Owens.” He also alleged a coverup between Owens and another individual in their group, Stephen Porter, to hide the fact that Spann had drawn guns.

In rebuttal, Agho told the jury “I was reading my bible last night and reflecting on the story of the good samaritan.” She argued that the group of men that confronted Cummins were just trying to protect a defenseless woman, Lukens, and that “the law protects good samaritans.”

Prosecutors proved successful in convincing the jury that the string of events that day — from the tent at the parade, to the eye witness testimony from the parking lot altercation and shooting, to the jailhouse tape — all demonstrated that Cummins was violent toward Lukens that day and he was intent on violence even prior to being confronted by Owens, Spann and the other intervenors.

Agho ended her closing argument by playing Cummins’ jailhouse confession tape where he boasted about killing Spann and Simpkins. She told the jury that was the real Jordan Cummins.

About the Author(s)
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Shaun Yurtkuran

Shaun Yurtkuran is a Jackson, Mississippi-based attorney, previously serving as a prosecutor in Hinds County and in the Attorney General's office.
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Russ Latino

Russ is a proud Mississippian and the founder of Magnolia Tribune Institute. His research and writing have been published across the country in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, The Hill, and The Washington Examiner, among other prominent publications. Russ has served as a national spokesman with outlets like Politico and Bloomberg. He has frequently been called on by both the media and decisionmakers to provide public policy analysis and testimony. In founding Magnolia Tribune Institute, he seeks to build on more than a decade of organizational leadership and communications experience to ensure Mississippians have access to news they can trust and opinion that makes them think deeply. Prior to beginning his non-profit career, Russ practiced business and constitutional law for a decade. Email Russ: