English gets life sentence, no parole

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 6, 2002

A sentence of life without parole was handed down Thursday morning in the capital murder case of Jermaine English.

English was found guilty of the murder of Terry Morris Wednesday afternoon after a jury deliberated for close to two hours. English faced either life without parole or the death penalty.

District Attorney Ed Greene conferred with both Morris’ family and law enforcement before asking for life without parole.

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Defense attorney Bill Whatley also said that he wanted the jury to recommend the sentence of life without parole. Whatley also said that he objected to the jury selection.

The jury was composed of 11 whites and one black.

Judge Jack Meigs then explained to the jury that they would no longer be needed and dismissed them.

Greene said that if both the prosecution and the defense had not agreed to the sentence, then a sentencing phase would have occurred. The sentencing phase would have determined the recommendation the jury gave to Meigs whether it be death or life without parole.

Greene said that the jury may have heard additional information about English such as his 18-month prison term in Seattle for possession of a firearm during this phase.

Whatley said that the prosecution would have only had one aggravating factor for the jury to consider. An aggravating factor would have been something bad about English such as his prison term in Seattle.

However, Whatley added, he and his co-counsel had prepared a number of mitigating factors for the jury. A mitigating factor would have been something that lessened the need for death, Whatley said.

Mitigating factors go to the heart of whether someone should be put to death or not, he said.

Greene said that the jury would have had to vote 10 to 2 for the sentence of death to be handed down. Life without parole would have only needed a vote of 7 to 5.

Whatley said that English will have 42 days to appeal the decision. However, he added, he will file a motion for a new trial in a few weeks.

Whatley’s motion will go to Meigs while an appeal by English, if it happens, will go to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

English will eventually be brought to the state penitentiary, according to one officer of the court. However, he might have to wait in the Dallas County jail due to overcrowding.