April 22, 2017 10:23:37 PM
An Alabama man will spend the rest of his life in prison for the killing of a Lowndes County teenager in 2011.
Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens sentenced Joshua Taylor, 29, of Reform, to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday, the day after a Marshall County jury convicted Taylor of shooting the 19-year-old William Stallings in the back of the head while he slept on a friend's couch on May 20, 2011.
District Attorney Scott Colom decided not to ask for the death penalty after talking with Stallings' mother, Josie Porter, Thursday evening following Taylor's conviction. While Porter had previously said she'd be willing to leave the decision of whether to execute Taylor up to a jury, Colom said, she changed her mind after watching a video of Taylor's confession to Lowndes County investigators during the trial.
"(After seeing) the remorse he showed in that video ... she specifically asked me not to go for the death penalty," Colom said during the sentencing.
Defense attorney Donna Smith called Porter's decision "remarkable."
"Ms. Porter is a delightful, strong woman who has lived with this for six years, and she is a person of mercy," Smith said. "I've never been in a situation where a mother forgives that easily, and I think it is a remarkable thing what she did (Friday) morning. She saved my client's life."
During the sentencing, Porter took the stand and spoke directly to Taylor, saying he not only took her son from her, but that he took her granddaughter's father. Porter's granddaughter was 2 at the time of the murder.
"Two months ago she had (the opportunity to go to) her first father-daughter dance," Porter said. "She didn't go."
Taylor became tearful at the sentencing as he apologized to Porter and the rest of Stallings' family without outright admitting to the shooting.
"I would just like to say it really doesn't matter because I've been convicted of capital murder ...I just want to come to you and I just want to apologize," he said.
"The true story may never come out," he added. "...No matter how many times I say I'm sorry it's not going to bring him back."
Initially, Colom's office offered Taylor a deal promising a sentence of life in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to capital murder, which Taylor declined. During the trial, Taylor faced either life in prison or the death penalty, Colom said.
The death penalty option ending up meaning the jury was made up entirely of white jurors, despite the fact the defendant is black, both Colom and Smith said.
"A lot of the African American (jury candidates) said that they ... personally opposed the death penalty, which under Mississippi law disqualifies them from serving on a (capital murder) jury," Colom said.
Smith indicated death penalty views are a fairly common reason for all-white or mostly-white juries.
"The unfortunate thing in jury selection is that African Americans exclude themselves from the jury pool because they're strongly opposed to the death penalty, which is how we ended up with this jury," she said.
Colom said both white and black jurors were struck from the jury pool during the selection process for opposing the death penalty or because their views on the death penalty were inconsistent.
The jury was from Marshall County because of the publicity surrounding the case, which Colom indicated is common for highly publicized murder trials. Marshall County's population is about 51 percent African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's website.
2. Kosciusko men arrested for meth trafficking STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
3. Photos: Budweiser Clydesdales in Columbus COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. CMSD releases further information on superintendent candidates COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Big weekend on deck for Starkville STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY