It was a mixture of emotions inside the Yazoo County courtroom as the sentence of Matthew Banks was announced by Judge Jannie Lewis.
Three days after a jury convicted Banks of manslaughter in the shooting death of Terrance Stuckey, he was given a 15-year sentence. However, he will serve five years, with ten years suspended.
The state prosecution pursued the maximum penalty while Banks’ legal team begged for mercy.
The family and friends of Stuckey reacted with shock and anger as deputies escorted them out of the crowded courtroom Monday morning. While many relatives broke down in tears, some shouted angry remarks to Banks as tears rolled down his face following his sentencing.
But friends and family of Banks erupted into praise, tears and gratitude to hear of his five-year sentence. Banks’ own father David Robinson embraced his son in tears, whispering “thank you, judge.”
Moments prior to the sentencing, statements and letters were accepted by the court on behalf of Banks’ character in the hopes of a more lenient term.
However, family members of Stuckey broke down in tears on the stand as they begged Lewis for the maximum sentence.
Lewis also gave Banks three years of supervised probation, along with a psychological evaluation and treatment. He would pay $376 in court costs and continue any mental evaluation if necessary.
Banks’ sentence would end with seven years of unsupervised probation.
Pleas of Mercy
The sentencing procedure took a little over an hour, beginning with Banks’ attorney Dexter Woodberry presenting letters from previous educators of the now 18-year-old. Banks was 16 years old at the time of the shooting.
Two former educators of Banks said he was a “bright” and “intelligent student,” who made the wrong decision on the night of the shooting.
Banks, who was transferred to the Yazoo Alternative Learning Center for his safety after the shooting, became close with Dr. Georgia Ingram.
Ingram submitted a letter that said Banks would often encourage the younger students at the school.
Lula Starling, retired educator, also submitted a letter on behalf of Banks, stating that he excelled with his school studies. She said he was “polite, respectful and pleasant.”
Emotions mixed with tears came from Banks’ father and mother, David Robinson and Annette Banks.
Robinson said he purchased his store after retiring from his two-decade career. It was that very store that both Banks and Stuckey left together the night of the shooting.
“I purchased the store so that my son would have something to do after school,” Robinson said.
Robinson said Banks has wanted to be a doctor ever since he was a young student.
“He studied so hard...” he said. “Until that night...I raised my son. He ain’t a murderer.”
Robinson said Banks had recently enrolled at Mississippi State University, where he “was like a child at Christmas.”
Robinson begged Lewis to have “mercy” on his son.
“I am so terrified that something is going to happen to my son...” Robinson said, crying. “Please give my boy a second chance. I love my boy. I feel like I am losing my best friend.”
Annette Banks also begged Lewis for a lighter sentence
“He is a good boy, a very humble spirit,” she said. “He is very kind, and he works very hard. I hate that he gave (Stuckey) a ride because this Wednesday, it would be his first day of class at Mississippi State.”
Annette Banks said this was the first time that her son has ever been in trouble.
“He is not a thug or a hoodlum,” she said. “He didn’t hang out in the streets. He is a big baby. That is what I see him as.”
Banks also took the stand, apologizing to the family and friends of Stuckey.
“I just wanted to give him a ride and go home,” Banks said.
Banks said he never intended to hurt Stuckey, who he considered a friend.
“I always tried to help him,” Banks said.
Banks, who graduated high school with honors and scored at 25 on his ACT, wants to continue his education.
“I want to go to college and become successful,” he concluded.
Pleas of Justice
The family and friends of Stuckey said they didn’t see Banks as a boy who panicked and made a mistake. After shooting Stuckey five times and dumping his body, they saw it as murder and demanded the maximum sentence.
Essie Banks, Stuckey’s aunt, said the shooting was no accident.
“There ain’t no way possible this was a mistake,” she said, breaking into sobs. “Five bullets in his head is no mistake. He left him to die. He didn’t have a chance. Five bullets in his head...your honor please.”
Jerica Pittman, Stuckey’s sister, said her brother was also successful in school, making As and Bs.
“We will never see him again,” she said. “Everybody talks about what bad he did. You never thought about the good.”
Pittman said Banks is not sorry for the shooting.
“You wouldn’t go around bragging,” she said, looking at Banks. “You don’t brag about that. You didn’t have to shoot him. You didn’t have to dump in the woods. You had no sympathy. You had no heart.”
Jerri Stuckey, Stuckey’s mother, said Banks could have approached her with any problems he had with her son.
“You shot him five times and dumped him in the woods,” she said, getting emotional. “You didn’t try to get him any help.”
She said it was wrong how the entire situation was handled, saying her son “had good in him too.”