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Jury finds Shanika Mitchell guilty of murder

By Erin Smith

The jury deliberated for one and one-half hours Friday afternoon before returning a verdict of guilty in the Shanika Mitchell murder trial in Bladen County Superior Court. Superior Court Judge Tanya Wallace sentenced Mitchell to life in prison with parole.

Assistant District Attorney Quentin McGee told the court during the sentencing phase that due to the fact the sole basis of the jury’s verdict is the felony murder rule and the fact Mitchell was under the age of 18 at the time of the shooting, under North Carolina law she must be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Mitchell was also convicted of attempted first degree murder against Antwan Council, who is Darrell’s brother.

Mitchell was also found guilty of felony conspiracy to commit first-degree murder against Antwan Council and discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle in operation. Mitchell was also found guilty of felony conspiracy to commit first-degree murder against Darrell Council. She received a sentence of 125 to 162 months to be served concurrently with the life sentence.

Following the reading of the verdict, Defense Attorney Wes Johnson asked for the jury to be polled. After the jury was polled and Mitchell was sentenced, Johnson notified the court his client does plan to appeal the verdict.

Earlier on Friday, the jury heard closing arguments from both sides before deliberations began after lunch.

In final arguments Defense Attorney Johnson reminded the jury that the State must prove their argument that Shanika Mitchell conspired with her brother, Montise Mitchell, D’Nayza Downing and Christopher Baldwin to commit the shooting, beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This is a sad case and it’s a tough case,” said Johnson.

He reminded the jury Montise Mitchell and D’Nayza Downing are both currently serving their sentences for the their roles in the shooting and Christopher Baldwin has yet to be tried for his role.

Johnson reminded the jury of testimony given earlier in the trial by Downing where she indicated some of the text messages exchanged between herself and Shanika Mitchell were simply “horse play.” Specifically, he referenced a text Shanika Mitchell sent Downing that read, “Let’s jump Antwan.”

“Does horse playing sound like someone who is lying in wait?” asked Johnson.

Assistant District Attorney Quentin McGee laid out his argument for the jury to return a verdict of first degree murder against Mitchell. McGee showed the jury text messages and a Facebook posting which were also displayed earlier in the trial. He reminded the jurors that Mitchell had posted a message on her Facebook regarding a birthday party for Montise Mitchell on November 7, 2015. McGee read a line in that Facebook post which said, “I am my brother’s keeper.”

McGee also reminded jurors of earlier testimony regarding the fact that Antwan Council testified to the fact he only knew Shanika Mitchel from school but they did not “hang out together.”

McGee told jurors that D’Nayza Downing testified to the fact that she contacted the Council brothers indicating she and Shanika Mitchell wanted to get together and smoke marijuana. He reminded the jurors of Downing’s testimony that she and Shanika Mitchell were communicating with Montise Mitchell the entire time.

McGee described the shooting once more for the jury. He showed the jury photographs of the silver Suburban the Council brothers were riding in the night the shooting occurred depicting the damage done to the vehicle.

McGee reminded the jury that Investigator Morgan Johnson was able to locate Montise Mitchell in Lumberton in December 2015. McGee said in the meantime Montise Mitchell was able to get rid of the murder weapon.

McGee argued that due to the fact Shanika Mitchell aided and abetted in the shooting, she is responsible under the law.

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