DECATUR — Jerry D. Harris, whose response to getting punched in the face was to shoot his assailant in the chest, was sentenced to 37 years in prison Thursday on a charge of attempted first-degree murder.
Harris, 36, was convicted by a Macon County Circuit Court jury Aug. 22. The jury rejected his plea of not guilty and his claim that he was not the person who had gunned down 46-year-old Sedrick Cunningham in a confrontation in the 1000 block of West Cerro Gordo Street July 29, 2017.
Harris still protested his innocence before Judge Thomas Griffith but, at the same time, had filed motions for a new trial claiming, among other complaints, that defense attorney Timothy Tighe should have raised an argument about his acting in self-defense.
Griffith denied the motion after hearing Tighe explain that the issue of self-defense never came up because Harris insisted he wasn’t there and never fired the shot. Cunningham, however, had never wavered in his identification of Harris, and had admitted punching him before being shot.
Macon County First Assistant State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke had said it was only the skill of the medical teams who treated Cunningham that prevented Thursday’s hearing being a “sentencing for homicide.”
She had called for a sentence of 45 years while Tighe had argued for a minimum sentence of 31 years, and said the court should consider Harris was assaulted first.
Griffith, who had the option of imposing a life sentence, sentenced Harris to 12 years on the attempted murder charge with an added 25-year sentence enhancement due to the use of a firearm inflicting great bodily harm.
Griffith noted Harrris had an extensive criminal record, including attempted armed robbery and drug dealing and the judge said a pre-sentence report listed the defendant’s likelihood of re-offending at more than 90 percent.
Noting that Harris had never accepted responsibility for his crime, the judge told the court: “This is obviously a very serious offense and Mr. Cunningham could have easily died as a result of Mr. Harris’ actions.”
Harris will be required to serve 85 percent of the sentence for being eligible for parole.