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Nobody came to Marcus Earl's sentencing

By By Suzanne Monk/managing editor
Jan. 5, 2001
When a defendant is being sentenced for killing someone, it often happens that his friends and family members are present in the courtroom to ask the judge for leniency.
It often happens that the victim's friends and family members are there to speak for their dead father, brother, son or husband.
This was not the case Friday morning at the Lauderdale County Courthouse as Circuit Judge Robert Bailey sentenced Marcus Earl in the shooting death of Antonio Grant.
There were no family members from either side just the bare minimum of court staff necessary to conduct the hearing. A judge, Earl's attorney, an assistant district attorney, the DA's victims' rights coordinator, a probation officer and a court reporter.
At the center of the action was a 19-year-old defendant who will spend the next 12 to 14 years of his life in jail.
The day Antonio Grant died
Antonio Grant was shot on April 6, about noon, at the intersection of 32nd Avenue and 13th Street.
Lt. Wade Johnson of the Meridian Police Department said the argument between the two young men began in a car.
The victim was transported to Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center, where he died later in the day.
Marcus Earl was originally indicted for murder; he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in late November. The plea was "in the blind," which means the district attorney did not make a sentencing recommendation.
What the prosecution said
Assistant District Attorney Andy Davis seemed taken aback because the victim's family did not attend the hearing. He said Victims Rights Coordinator Shirley Adams called Antonio Grant's mother, Mary, on Thursday to remind her of the time and place.
Here is what Mary Grant wrote:
Davis said a pre-sentence investigation indicated that Earl has been "belligerent" at the jail since his arrest, and has destroyed county property. He added that the defendant has an extensive juvenile record.
What the defense said
Earl's attorney, Gary Jones, spoke in his behalf.
Jones said there was a witness to the shooting, a man who saw two men struggling in a car, whose statement seems to support Earl's version of events.
Judge imposes sentence
Bailey characterized the crime as "another killing involving guns and dope," and noted that the victim had a bottle of rock cocaine in his pocket when he arrived at the emergency room.
The judge expanded on the prosecution's remarks about Earl's habits and behavior as follows:
The defendant has no work record and dropped out of school in the 10th grade;
Earl is known to use cocaine and marijuana;
On Aug. 7, the judge said, Earl broke off a sprinkler head at the Lauderdale County jail and later, after he had pleaded guilty, interfered with a head count; and
Earl was also indicted for auto burglary in an unrelated incident. This charge was dismissed when Earl agreed to plead guilty in the shooting.
Bailey sentenced Earl to 20 years in prison, with five years suspended and five years of supervised probation. Earl received credit for 273 days already served at the Lauderdale County jail but will serve 85 percent of the remainder under Mississippi's "truth in sentencing" law.
While in prison, Earl will be required to take part in an alcohol and drug treatment program.
Earl was also ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to the victim's mother, the cost of Antonio Grant's funeral, and $500 in restitution to the victim in the auto burglary.
If there is any good news, it seems to be that the court is done at least until the next grand jury with sentencing hearings that all sound the same in drug-related shootings.