August 25, 2018 10:03:59 PM
A man accused and tried three times for the 2011 murder of his disabled cousin has been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
A Lowndes County jury convicted 41-year-old Derrick Bankhead of capital murder Friday after a two-day trial. Bankhead was one of four suspects indicted for the murder of his cousin, 35-year-old Eddie Bankhead, who was shot to death in July 2011 during a home invasion and robbery.
Eddie Bankhead was disabled and confined to a wheelchair, something prosecutors argued Derrick Bankhead used to his advantage during the robbery.
It was the third jury to hear Derrick Bankhead's case. The first trial in September 2016 ended in a conviction which was overturned after Bankhead's attorney, Mark Williamson of Starkville, learned District Attorney Scott Colom had a conflict of interest prosecuting the case. The second trial in December 2017 ended in a hung jury.
Patrick Beasley of the Attorney General's Office prosecuted the case.
On Thursday, during the trial, Williamson moved for another mistrial in the case after the state presented evidence that referenced previous felonies Derrick Bankhead allegedly committed. Williamson argued this could prejudice the jury against his client.
However, Circuit Judge Lee Coleman, who oversaw the case, ruled the trial would continue and that he would add a jury instruction that any reference to past wrongdoing by the defendant should be disregarded.
Williamson said in court he disagreed with Coleman's ruling.
"Once you ring a bell, you can't unring that bell," he told the judge.
In an issued statement released Friday, Attorney General Jim Hood praised the sentencing.
"This criminal used his cousin's disability to his advantage and targeted him because of that," Hood said. "It doesn't get much greedier. I thank Judge Coleman for giving him exactly what he deserves."
The other three suspects in the case, Michael Ross, 38, Omar Beard, 35, and Cortez Williams, 33, are all awaiting trial. Williams' trial is tentatively set for Sept. 4, while Ross' is scheduled for Nov. 26. There is not a date set for Beard's trial yet.
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