By Daniel Silliman
Jeffrey Winslow has been sentenced to juvenile detention until he's 21 for murdering Edward Bernard Mills. Winslow turns 18 this month, and will be free in about three years.
Mills' mother, Tammy, called the sentence "almost a swipe on the butt, or a pat on the hand," as it was passed down in juvenile court Friday morning.
"According to our court system, in a manner of years, the defendant will be free again," Mills said, in a written statement read aloud at the hearing. "This grieves me more than words can say ... no time served would have brought my son back, but surely a minimal sentence is a slap in my face. My son was murdered in cold blood, and his blood yet screams for justice. Yet it has been ignored and I stand here crushed."
Winslow shot Mills in the back on a Sunday afternoon in October 2007. The two had an argument about money and the marijuana Mills, 17, was selling to Winslow, according to the findings of the court. Mills, known as "Boo Man" to his friends and family, died in the breezeway of building M at Williamsburg South Apartments, on Flint River Road in Jonesboro.
Winslow was originally charged as an adult, facing a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. The Clayton County District Attorney's office bungled the case, however, failing to bring it to a grand jury for indictment within the legally required 180 days. According to state law, juveniles can't be left languishing in adult prison, unindicted, for years. The District Attorney's office missed the deadline by more than two months, and Winslow became the first person in Clayton County to be charged with murder as a juvenile. The error reduced his maximum possible sentence from life in prison to a total of four years in detention.
Judge Steven C. Teske, speaking to Winslow during the sentencing hearing, said, "I believe you have already received mercy, the mistake made by those particular individuals in the DA's office ... There is an injustice here. There is an injustice in the result."
Teske urged Winslow to accept the undeserved mercy he has been given, and live a better life.
"A day will have to come for you, Jeffrey, when you will have to come to grips with this," the judge said. "When you get to that place, and I pray to God you do, when you come to grips with this, I hope you realize you now have to live two people's lives, your own and Mr. Mills'."
Mills also urged the young murderer to make things right.
"My plea this morning is that you ask God to forgive you," she said. "I forgive you, but your heart has to be right if you want to see God in peace. However, I am not a judge in the courts, or of this world. But one thing is for sure, God will have the final say. All that he requires of me is to forgive and love and I openly say that I forgive, whether you ask for it or not."
Winslow, wearing an olive-brown suit and shackles, didn't say anything, but just blinked.
The 17-year-old has been arrested and brought to juvenile court at least once a year since 2002, when the then-11-year-old was charged with battery, according to court officer, Michael Richards. Winslow has had charges of battery and assault dismissed, according to court records; has been sentenced to probation on charges of trespassing and burglary. A few years ago, Winslow walked away from a car wreck that killed two other teens, who had allegedly been fleeing from police in the stolen ride. They died, but Winslow only suffered a scar on his right eye.
"Jeffrey Winslow is a danger to himself and to the community," Richards said, during the sentencing. "This officer is not sure if the detention can change Jeffrey, but for three years, he would benefit. He would have around-the-clock guidance and supervision."
Teske ended the hour-long sentencing hearing by telling Winslow other young men have used juvenile detention to rehabilitate themselves, and urged him to hold himself accountable to the murdered Mills, and plan on seeing him in heaven.
"That should be your goal in life," Teske said, "to say, 'Edward, I lived my life for you. The success I made, I did it for you. Because I took your life. Because I owed it to you' ... I wish you the best. I really do. I can't afford to lose two lives. I really can't."