JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A Jones County Prosecutor continues to strongly oppose a proposal in the Legislature that could let a person convicted of murder receive a sentence of just 20 years. A bill currently under consideration would change the law to distinguish between first and second degree murder.
"You don't need to decrease the penalty for murder. Bottom line. Period. Paragraph. Do you understand?" says Jones County Assistant District Attorney, J. Ronald Parrish. He directs his frustration toward Mississippi Legislators. On Tuesday, The House passed a Bill that will add second degree murder charges to the books.
"Anybody supporting this should be ashamed of themselves. It is like I said, we have always had it in this State where murder means murder. The way they've got it, it is life in prison," added Parrish. If you just had a deprived heart, while you got a chance to get off in 20 years, and then Christopher Epps up there with the Department of Correction—with his wisdom—can let them out in 10 years like he has been doing."
Senator Brice Wiggins from District 52 disagrees. "That is false. I can tell you that the Mississippi Prosecution vetted this bill. Their board passed it, and it was one of their top five bills that they want to see this Legislative session."
"Look, I doubt if everybody in the Prosecution Association was for this, but I don't care I'm sitting up in this place to represent the Prosecution Association," explained Parrish.
The Bill was authored by Wiggins, also a former prosecutor. He says the Bill is designed to give the victims and prosecutors more options.
Wiggins says, "If it has to be pled down, it can only be manslaughter, which is a 20 year maximum sentence. What this does, is allows victims to have an option of selecting murder to where the person will be penalized up to 40 years in prison."
"Well tell that to the guy over there in the coffin," Parrish refuted. "I'm sorry, but he got less time you know because he just had a deprived heart. He didn't think about killing you so it's second degree. What insanity."
House Bill 365, Section 2 Part II states, "Every person who shall be convicted of second degree murder shall be imprisoned for life in the custody of the department of corrections if the punishment is so fixed by the jury in its verdict. If the jury fails to agree on fixing the penalty at life imprisonment, the court shall fix the penalty at not less than 20, nor more than 40 years, in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
According to Wiggins, "The 'murder 2' is not changing any law anything like that. All it is doing is increasing and creating a category of murder."
Parrish says, "That is absurd; that is a bald-face misstatement. What turnip truck did he fall off of?"
To read the Bill, you may find it on the Mississippi Legislature's Website.