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Sammons pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter
Sentenced to 20 years in prison
TSammons mug web
Edith Tillyne Sammons
    In a last-minute “best interest” plea, a woman facing a retrial of the 1998 murder of her husband pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
    Edith Tillyne Sammons, 56, was convicted in 1999 by a Bulloch County jury of shooting and  then running over — repeatedly — her estranged husband, Gregory Cooper Sammons. But after appeals, Ms. Sammons won the right to a retrial based upon technicalities; a juror in the original trial was switched without her permission or knowledge. The juror, according to court records, had asked to be dismissed due to the sexual and racial aspects of the testimony during the week-long  trial.
    Sammons, who has already served almost 11 years in prison, faces only a little less than 10 more years, as the time served will be applied to the 20-year sentence Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner handed down Monday morning, said Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Keith McIntyre, who prosecuted the case.,
    Sammons entered the courtroom early Monday morning, wearing a print skirt, white sweater and leg shackles. Her long hair was captured in a severe single French braid, with two spiral curls framing her face.  While jurors waited downstairs at the Bulloch County Judicial Annex, where some were to be selected for the trial that prosecutors expected to last as long as a week, she spoke in a quiet voice in responded to Turner’s questions about her plea.
    On the verge of a trial almost 10 years after the original one, Sammons’      Atlanta attorney Brian Steel and  McIntyre came to a “joint recommendation” to Turner that Sammons be sentenced to 20 years after entering a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter.
    Sammons was originally convicted of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.  She has already served almost 11 years of the life sentence Turner handed down in 1999.
    As part of Sammons’ guilty plea entered Monday to charges of voluntary manslaughter, the other charges were “nolle prossed,” meaning dismissed, McIntyre said.

Evidence could convict; multiple confessions
    Steel admitted before Turner and the court that he “tried to get around” strong evidence that Sammons killed her husband, and cited the fact that Sammons had given several conflicting “confessions” during the preliminary investigation. He also admitted he and his client were aware that there was evidence enough to convict her a second time of the murder.
    Two of Sammons’ confessions had been ruled inadmissible in court due to rulings that Sammons’ “right to counsel had been violated,” McIntyre said.
    Sammons chose to enter an “Alford plea,”  which in essence meant she knew there was evidence enough to convict her although she still was not admitting guilt, he said.
    The week of Sammons’ first trial held testimony filled with shocking details about her alleged affair with a 17-year-old black student that lived with her and her sons. Sammons is white, and her sons were teenagers at the time.
    Testimony during the trial from witnesses, investigators and Sammons herself, including at least three different confessions said to have been willingly given, also detailed how Sammons waited for her estranged husband to drive past on his way to a counseling session with their pastor.
    Feigning vehicle trouble, Sammons lured her husband to stop, then shot him, according to testimony during the 1999 trial. When he fled into the woods, down a river landing lane, Sammons followed him in her Suburban, plowing through a cable, ripping the attached posts from the ground, and ran him over repeatedly, investigators said during the trial.
    Throughout the trial Sammons and witnesses spoke of alleged abuse by Cooper Sammons, and the teen with whom Ms. Sammons was accused of having an affair denied the relationship.
    However, in a surprise change of testimony, on the last day of the trial Rashon Blackmon admitted under oath he had a sexual relationship with Sammons while living with her and her sons.
    During the  trial in 1999, prosecutors read letters Sammons sent while in jail that supported his testimony.
    Monday, McIntyre expressed satisfaction that the issue was at an end.
    “I am happy the Sammons family can now put  this behind them,” he said.
    A handful of Cooper Sammons’ relatives appeared in court Monday, as did one of Sammons’ sons.

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