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Christmas Eve shooting suspect pleads not guilty

A Brookhaven man on Thursday pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in a fatal Christmas Eve shooting.

Yaquilla Washington, the man involved in the Dec. 24 death of Demetrius Wilson, pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. Washington was indicted in March for one count of first-degree murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

On Dec. 24, police arrested Washington, 27, after he allegedly shot Wilson at the Cloverdale apartments in Brookhaven. Police say Wilson had returned to the Cloverdale area from shopping with his girlfriend and noticed a man looking at him. Wilson and Washington allegedly engaged in a short conversation before Wilson and his girlfriend drove to another house in Cloverdale.

The girlfriend told police she entered a house and when she returned to the car she heard an argument between the two men followed by Washington allegedly shooting Wilson with a Smith & Wesson .38 special handgun.

Sentence hearings

The council for the cases involving Lorenzo Washington and Jerrard Cook filed motions to vacate their sentences of life without parole based on the fact that both Washington and Cook were under the age of 18 at the time their crimes were committed.

Lorenzo Washington was arrested in February 2007 for the death of Marie W. Pendilton. Pendilton was found dead in the backyard of her home at 1337 Old Saint John Road in Wesson. Pendilton’s death was caused by repeated strikes to the head with a hammer. Washington was 17 at the time of the murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on Sept. 24, 2007.

Cook was arrested in connection with the shooting death of Marvin Terrel Durr on June 18, 2002. The murder occurred after Cook and Cearic Barnes flagged down Durr’s car with the intent to drive it to McComb to commit a robbery. After he let the two men out of his car, Durr turned around and was headed home when he was flagged down again by Cook. Barnes walked a short distance away and Cook shot Durr once in the head with a .380 pistol that had been stolen from Cook’s uncle’s home a week earlier.

Cook was 17 at the time of Durr’s murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In regards to both cases, Washington and Cook’s council presented motions citing the Supreme Court decision in the 2012 case Miller v. Alabama which held that “mandatory life without parole on those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’”

Circuit Court Judge David Strong did not make a ruling concerning the matter and is currently reviewing the motions. No date has been set for those rulings.