Why Jamaal Edwards Got No Extra Time for Second "Sh*t Happened" Killing

Jamaal Edwards's booking photo following his arrest in the deaths of John Shoeboot and James Clyde Brown.
Jamaal Edwards's booking photo following his arrest in the deaths of John Shoeboot and James Clyde Brown. Denver District Attorney's Office
Update: Jamaal Edwards, who had previously been found guilty of second-degree murder for killing John Shoeboot in January 2015, has now confessed to culpability in the death of James Clyde Brown during the same incident. But his plea in the Brown case was to manslaughter, not murder, and the admission doesn't add one day to his sentence for actions that he summed up to investigators by using the two-word phrase, "Shit happened."

Edwards's probable-cause statement (it's accessible below) notes that officers were dispatched to unit 102 at 1425 Xenia Street — a Colorado Coalition for the Homeless complex whose residents included many formerly homeless individuals — during the early hours of January 7, 2015, after a woman called 911 to say she'd discovered a friend of hers bleeding on the floor and apparently lifeless.

Upon their arrival, the cops found two victims: Shoeboot, pronounced dead at the scene, and Brown (previously identified as James Brown III), who passed away shortly thereafter at University Hospital. Autopsies showed that both of them died as a result of multiple sharp-force injuries.

Detectives subsequently learned that another 911 call had come in around the time of the slayings, this one from Edwards. During the conversation, he was quoted as claiming "he had seen someone murdered."

John Shoeboot - FACEBOOK
John Shoeboot
The next day, investigators tracked down Edwards. He initially said he'd seen an unidentified man stab Shoeboot and Brown to death. But the cops weren't convinced, owing to alleged inconsistencies in his account, not to mention two cuts on his right hand.

During another interview, the report quotes Edwards as saying he "argued and physically fought with the two men and 'shit happened.'" He added that after obtaining two knives, he blacked out. When asked who he'd stabbed first, Edwards said he didn't recall, though he did remember sticking a knife into a couch. He also acknowledged that he'd disposed of the clothing he'd worn that night, because the items had blood on them.

Shortly thereafter, Edwards was charged with first-degree murder in each death. But the details of the crimes were unclear from the beginning, with Edwards's mom telling at least one local media organization that her son said he'd taken acid during drinking games he'd been playing with the men and was later unable to remember precisely what had taken place.

Such factors may help explain the mixed verdict.

Another Jamaal Edwards mug shot. - DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
Another Jamaal Edwards mug shot.
Denver District Attorney's Office
After a seven-day trial in April, the jury opted not to find him guilty of first-degree murder in Shoeboot's death, instead convicting him of second-degree murder — another charge that prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney's Office had included. But no conclusion was reached when it came to Brown's death.

The DA's office could have dropped the matter at that point. Instead, a retrial regarding the Brown killing was set for October 3, several months after his scheduled June 23 sentencing for taking Shoeboot's life.

In advance of the latter date, Edwards pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

For this last crime, Edwards was ordered to spend twelve years in prison. However, that sentence will run concurrently with the 42 year jolt he was given for killing Shoeboot — meaning that his actual punishment would have been the same whether or not he had taken responsibility for what happened to Brown.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts