By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Double capital murder defendant Maurice Donnell “Montana” Harris of Tupelo pleaded guilty today to killing two men while he committed a 2010 armed robbery.
He’ll serve two consecutive life sentences in prison, without possibility of parole.
By agreeing to plead guilty twice, Harris avoids the death penalty.
More than a dozen people were in the audience in the large courtroom of the Lee Justice Center to hear Harris’ pleas about 3 p.m.
It’s unusual to see a plea accepted in a double murder case, but that’s what happened in a quick succession of behind-the-scene events this week.
Harris, 43, admitted to Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner that he shot to death Jerry Wayne White, 35, and Alexander O’Neal Collier, 39, on April 4, 2010.
The shooting deaths occurred on Linden Hills Street in the north part of central Tupelo called “The Hill,” which is about a half mile from where Harris was arrested.
A Lee County grand jury indicted Harris in August 2010.
It’s possible the plea deal was allowed because the victims’ families were not in favor of Harris’ death.
District Attorney John Young represented the state with assistants Arch Bullard and Heather Joyner.
Harris was represented by Chris Bauer of Tupelo and Kelsey L. Rushing of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense.
For more details, read Saturday’s NEMS Daily Journal.