- Associated Press - Saturday, September 3, 2016

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - A north Mississippi man has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty in the shooting death of his cousin who had a physical disability and used a walker.

Derrick Bankhead, 39, of Columbus was convicted Thursday in the July 2011 killing of 35-year-old Eddie Bankhead, The Commercial Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/2cduPxH ).

Attorneys said Derrick Bankhead wasn’t eligible for the death penalty because he was found to have an intellectual disability, and Circuit Judge Lee Coleman sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Before sentencing, the victim’s sister, Caroline Keaton, read a statement saying she hoped the family could still be a family after the trial.

“I know Derrick didn’t intend for (Eddie Bankhead) to get killed,” Keaton said.

Prosecutors said Derrick Bankhead planned the crime, pretending to buy cocaine from his cousin so that he could get the door open for two other suspects to run into the house to grab the drugs.

Michael Ross, who’s also charged with capital murder in the case, testified against Derrick Bankhead. Ross is set for trial Nov. 14. He testified that Bankhead planned the robbery and intentionally set it up so that two other people would run into the house with guns.

In a taped statement shown in court Wednesday, Derrick 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, Derrick Bankhead’s attorney, Mark 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 District Attorney Scott Rogillio said if that was Bankhead’s goal he had certainly achieved it.

“Well, congratulations. Mission accomplished,” Rogillio said during his closing statements. “It’s very serious. It doesn’t get more serious than this.”

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