Almost a week after a jury convicted Dequandrea Truitt and Shaquille Porter in the 2013 New Years Day murder of Charles Foster Jr., a Muscogee County Superior Court judge sentenced them both to life in prison with the possibility of parole plus 25 years.
Under the sentencing guidelines, each will have to serve at least 30 years before being eligible for parole. Judge William Rumer handed down the sentences Thursday on two counts each of murder, seven counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possessing a firearm during a felony.
Foster, 24, was fatally shot after a hail of gunfire erupted inside and outside Majestic Sports Bar on Jan. 1, 2013. The gunfire also left six people injured at the Cusseta Road nightclub.
Assistant District Attorney LaRae Moore, who changed her mind about making any recommendation on the sentencing, said shes happy with the judges decision.
I think it was appropriate, she said. I left it to the courts discretion. They got life plus 25 and I have no complaints about that.
Moore said it was disturbing that everything seemed to be someone elses fault in the case. Moore brought posts and photos from Facebook to point out what she described as Truitt, 22, using his hand as a gun.
Instead of his family being a source of support for rehabilitation, it was just a basis for denial and not encouraging enablers is what I observed it to be, she said.
Defense Attorney Stacey Jackson, who represented Truitt, and attorney Michael Eddings, who represented Porter, 20, both sought the possibility of parole in sentencing.
Im glad the court did what we asked for with the possibility of parole, Jackson said after the hearing. We are definitely thankful for that.
But the court battle for Truitt is not over. Jackson said there will be a motion filed for a retrial. A date has been set for Oct. 21 to hear arguments on motions for a new trial.
There is a lot of grounds once we get the transcripts back, Jackson said.
Before the sentencing, Fosters mother and sister told the court about the impact of the Columbus State University students death on the family. Jessie Foster, the victims mother, said he loved people and aspired to become a judge after completing his education. Her son was determined, working at a Smokey Bones restaurant and going to school.
He would leave work and go to college, she said.
She looked out among the courtroom with the defendants relatives and noted they all have children and grandchildren.
I dont get a chance to have that, she said of her son. He didnt get a chance to the life promised to him.
The mother said she can no longer see her son or hold him. I have to go visit a grave, she said, choking back tears.
Latoria Foster, the victims sister, said she has forgiven the men convicted of killing her brother.
Im forgiving yall, she said. Just stand up and say we didnt mean to do that. I forgive you. He forgives yall.
Five relatives testified the men were innocent but in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Shirley Johnson, Porters aunt, said he is not a troubled child. He is innocent, she said.
Moore asked her if she was aware of Porter having a 9 mm pistol at age 15.
Porters mother, Cynthia Porter, said her son had some run-ins but nothing major.
I just ask you to have mercy on him cause he is innocent, she said.
Moore questioned her, too, about the son having a gun in 2009.
I cant watch him 24/7, Cynthia Porter told Moore.
Gennifer Truitt, the mother of Dequandrea Truitt, said shes sorry for the Foster familys loss, but her son was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. There was no evidence and no gun, she said.
Dequandrea Truitt was questioned by Moore about posts on Facebook with what appeared to be his hands pointing like a gun. I never indicated it was my photo, he told Moore.
He also said some of the posts were tags from other people visiting the page.
Outside the courtroom, Truitts mother said she will continue the fight for her son.
I believe in justice, she said. Whenever we come back, justice will be served. I know there is a greater man upstairs to battle anything. I was disappointed but my son kept my spirits up. He said, mom, if you fall, I fall.
During the hearing, Gennifer Truitt claimed the assistant district attorney didnt hear what she wanted from the family.
I say she changed her mind because she wanted us to be something we wasnt, she said. She wanted us to shed some tears like they did it. We didnt give her, her reaction, so that is why she changed the plea or whatever she wanted.
She doesnt expect her son to sit in prison for long. He is going to be out again, Gennifer Truitt said. He is prepared to sit for 10 or 5, but he is not going to sit no longer than that.