Derrick Bankhead will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury convicted him of capital murder in the Lowndes County Circuit Court Thursday.
The jury found Bankhead, 39, guilty in the shooting death of his first cousin, Eddie Bankhead, 35, during a home robbery in July 2011. Bankhead was one of four suspects in the robbery, and in court the state argued Bankhead had planned it, pretending to buy cocaine from the victim so that he could get the door open for two other suspects to run into the house to grab the cocaine.
While in the house, one of the two suspects — 31-year-old Cortez Williams — allegedly fired the fatal shots.
The state argued Bankhead specifically targeted his cousin because of his physical disability that kept him restricted to a walker.
District Attorney Scott Colom was pleased with the verdict.
“I think the jury made the right decision based on the facts and the law, and justice was served,” Colom said.
Bankhead’s attorney, Mark Williamson, did not comment on the verdict on Thursday.
Circuit Court Judge Lee Coleman sentenced Bankhead to life in prison without parole, foregoing a sentencing trial because Mississippi law allows only life in prison without parole or the death penalty for those convicted of capital murder. Bankhead was not eligible for the death penalty because of an intellectual disability.
Before the sentencing, the victim’s sister, Caroline Keaton, read a statement saying she hoped the family could still be a family after the trial and sentencing.
“I know Derrick didn’t intend for (Eddie Bankhead) to get killed,” she said.
The state’s case rested primarily on the testimony of witness Michael Ross, another suspect in the case whose own capital murder trial is set for Nov. 14. On Tuesday, Ross testified that Bankhead planned the robbery and intentionally set it up so that suspects Omar Beard, 33, and would run into the house with guns.
In a taped statement shown in court Wednesday, Bankhead told police he had talked about robbing the victim but had not intended on going through with it, had not planned it with the other suspects and was just “at the wrong place at the wrong time” the night of the shooting.
During closing statements, Williamson said it is not against the law to “run your mouth.”
“He wants to be taken seriously on the street,” Williamson said. “He wants to be a thug like the rest of them. But he doesn’t have the heart to go through with it.”
Assistant DA Scott Rogillio, during his closing statements, said if that was Bankhead’s goal he had certainly achieved it.
“Well, congratulations. Mission accomplished,” he said. “It’s very serious. It doesn’t get more serious than this.”