Brian Holliman of Caledonia, found guilty Friday of the shotgun killing of his wife, professed his love for her in remarks to the court before he was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.
“To my wife”s family and my family, I did love my wife, regardless of what has been said,” a tearful Holliman said Friday in Lowndes County Circuit Court. “I did not kill my wife on purpose. I was put in a bad situation I did not want to be put in.”
“Those issues have already been resolved by the jury,” Circuit Judge Lee Howard responded.
After a 90-minute deliberation Friday, the jury in Holliman”s murder trial found him guilty of murder in on Oct. 25, 2008, death of his wife, Laura-Lee Godfrey Holliman.
The prosecution, led by District Attorney Forrest Allgood, argued Holliman was enraged that his wife wanted to leave him. The defense, led by attorney Steve Farese, argued that Laura Holliman was suicidal and the 12-gauge shotgun went off accidentally as the couple argued.
Farese said he will appeal the verdict, and that post-trial motions will be filed Jan. 15. He said post-trial motions will consist of a request of a “judgment notwithstanding the jury”s verdict, commonly known as JNOV.”
The motion would ask the judge to overrule the jury”s decision, based upon errors the judge allowed during the trial. One of the issues Farese said he plans to bring up in he post-trial motion is change of venue in the case, which Howard denied on Monday. Farese had filed a change of venue motion in August, arguing that Holliman could not receive a fair trial in Lowndes County because of pretrial publicity. Howard decided to let the juror-vetting process determine whether or not to move the trial.
Though Holliman was sentenced to life, the possibility of parole is out there, said District Attorney Forrest Allgood, who prosecuted the case.
“There is the possibility of parole. The murder statutes in Mississippi in sentencing is life. There is no early release until the age of 65. Right now, he would not be eligible until he is 65,” he said. Holliman is 28.
Freda Stacy, the grandmother of Laura Holliman, commented on Allgood”s work, and the efforts of the law enforcement officers.
“Forrest Allgood is one of the smartest men I know. The investigators with the sheriff”s department did their job. I think justice has been served,” she said.
Stacy was the first witness called by the state to testify on Monday. Stacy said she credits the Lord for helping her get through the trial and the verdict.
“I put this all in the Lord”s hands. Without Him, I don”t think I could have gotten through this by myself,” she said.
Members of the Holliman family declined to comment about the verdict or the trial following the sentencing.
Friday”s session began with Judge Howard giving jurors final instructions before the prosecution and defense gave their closing statements.
“The issue for you is to consider expressed or implied malice,” Allgood told the jury. “In the statement the defendant gave on Oct. 29 to Detectives Eli Perrigin and Tony Cooper (of the Lowndes County Sheriff”s Department), ”I purposely pointed the shotgun” at Laura Lee Holliman. Creating a situation of fatal consequence is implied malice, (Holliman) has admitted to it,” he said.
He said Holliman gave three different statements to the Lowndes County Sheriff”s Office, and told Caledonia Town Marshal Ben Kilgore that the 911 dispatcher told him to move the gun.
“That is not on the tape that was played in court. He lied. (Holliman”s mother) Sarah Holliman told you on the witness stand she never told anyone (Laura”s death) was a suicide. She told (witnesses) Judy Rawson and Mrs. Holbrook. From start to finish, Brian was tormented by her (Laura”s) decision to leave,” Allgood said.
Farese, in his closing statement, described what happened to Laura Lee Holliman as “a tragic accident.”
“This case is not about manslaughter or murder, it is about family,” he said.
“Brian Holliman is on trial for life. Unfortunately, it involves the death of a precious human being. This is about liberty and life, what people are fighting about in Iraq,” Farese said.
After jury deliberations at 1:30 p.m., as Lowndes County Circuit Clerk Mahala Salazar began reading the verdict, Holliman began to cry. He was sitting at the defense table with Farese and Terry Cox, a private investigator.
After Howard dismissed the jury, the court was recessed for 30 minutes as sentencing was prepared. At 2:15 p.m., Judge Howard sentenced Holliman to life in prison with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Allgood said he felt the verdict rendered by the jury was justified.
“Did the defendant earn his way to the verdict? Yes,” Allgood said.
Holliman had been free on bond since November 2008 and previously pleaded not guilty to the charge. Laura Holliman was 24 at the time of her death.
Laura Holliman”s death originally was investigated as a suicide, but Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant and sheriff”s office investigators became suspicious of the death and began questioning Brian Holliman.
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