Wilson pleads guilty to manslaughter
By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 31, 2005 1:47 PM
With jurors deadlocked throughout the day in the first-degree murder trial of Leandren Andre Wilson, the defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Wilson faced charges in connection with the July 11, 2004, murder of Corey Lavon Grantham.
Wilson pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony. The sentence carries a minimum punishment of 71 months, with a maximum of 95. Wilson will be given credit for time served while he awaited trial. The plea agreement included the dismissal of the first degree murder and habitual felony charges. The initial charge carried a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Throughout questioning by Hockenbury, Wilson remained unemotional, saying no more than "yes, sir," or "no, sir."
Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth accepted the plea on behalf of the state, but said there were many eyewitnesses who would not come forward to testify.
"Since we have been searching for them over the last two weeks, they have been hiding and avoiding our subpoenas," she said.
Hockenbury told Wilson he would have to repay Gloria Moore, Grantham's mother, $5,365 for Grantham's funeral, and attorney's fees to the state for defense lawyer Louis Jordan, who was court-appointed.
Hockenbury gave Moore an opportunity to speak to the court.
"I want to say to Andre: I'm very angry, because I know in my heart that you killed my son," she said as the defendant kept his back to her.
"You have taken my son, and I know you did because God told me you did. Someone that's precious to me and my family," Mrs. Moore continued as her family sobbed. "You might not get what's coming to you down here, but you're going to have to stand before God, because the Bible says you reap what you sow."
Jurors began their deliberations shortly before 10 a.m. At 11:26, Judge Jay D. Hockenbury read a question from the jury.
"'We have a hung jury. We have a number of not guilty and a number of guilty. What do we do now?'" Hockenbury read.
The judge suggested to jurors they had been deliberating a very short time in a case that took a week to argue, and reminded them of their duty to try to come to a unanimous verdict.
The jury was then excused to continue deliberations. When the jurors left the courtroom, Hockenbury revealed the count as it stood at that point: Nine for guilty and three for not guilty. Those numbers would not change throughout the day.
Jurors later asked to review testimonies from the defendant and from witnesses. Just before noon, 12 copies of Wilson's statement to police and diagrams of the crime scene were sent to the jury room.
After a lunch recess, the jury resumed deliberations just after 2 p.m. At 3:40, Hockenbury received another note from the jury foreman. The count was the same.
After being sent back to deliberate yet again, jurors asked to see statements of prosecution witnesses Antoinette Saul, Tory Thompson and Mitchell Percell.
No record of a statement by Percell could be found, but jurors were permitted to view statements of Ms. Saul and Thompson in court. After about 15 minutes, they were excused to deliberate again.
At 5:05, jurors were given a short recess in the jury room, and ordered not to discuss the case. Hockenbury then announced a plea agreement had been reached.
With the defendant out of the courtroom, jurors returned to learn of the case's resolution. The foreman, a woman, indicated that the jury was still deadlocked.
"What was the main hang-up?" Hockenbury asked her.
"They kept referring back to reasonable doubt," she responded.
Hockenbury told jurors the character of witnesses was less than desirable under the circumstances. "You're not going to be getting deacons of First Baptist Church," he said.
Mrs. Kroboth told jurors the case was the result of a fight between two gangs. "This is a turf battle," she said.
Hockenbury then asked jurors to comment on Wilson's decision not to testify.
"He won by it," said one juror, a man.
Mrs. Kroboth wrapped up the case by saying that evil happens when good men do nothing, suggesting that a murder conviction would have been easier if more witnesses had come forward.
"A whole bunch of good men stood by and watched and wouldn't come tell you," she said.
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