Photo by Elaine Rackley
The Wanda Stanley defense team accepted a plea bargain from prosecutors, Wednesday, in Stanley’s murder trial. Henry County Public Defender Gary Bowman is at left, Jennifer Lewis, center, and Stanley at right. She was accused of murdering her husband.
Wanda Stanley will be spending time in a state prison, after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, as part of a plea bargain offered by prosecutors.
Stanley was on trial for two weeks, accused of fatally shooting her husband, John Stanley, Sr., in December of 2008. She was initially charged with felony and malice murder.
A jury began deliberations in her case, Tuesday, and continued on Wednesday. However, the jury was out for lunch at the time of the plea bargain.
Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero made the announcement during sentencing for Stanley. Amero made sure Stanley understood her guilty plea, before sentencing her to 15 years in prison, 7-10 of which are to be served in a penitentiary. Five years will be served on probation, with credit for time served.
“Counsel for the State and for Ms. Stanley were very well prepared and did excellent work in what was a very difficult and complex case,” said Judge Amero. “Also, the jury was attentive and diligent throughout the course of this lengthy trial. Our community was well served by their efforts.”
Amero addressed the jurors when they returned from lunch at 1 p.m., explaining that their services were no longer needed because of the plea bargain. He told the jurors he appreciated their working hard “to get it right.”
One juror, who said she was an alternate, spoke with defense attorneys after Amero’s comments. She identified herself as Ms. C, and said she really wanted to voice her opinion, but because she was an alternate, she could not.
“My opinion is that she was innocent, because of the years of abuse [she] and her children suffered,” said Ms. C. “It’s never right to take someone’s life, because all of our lives are valuable and important, but she was tired of it.”
Stanley and her attorneys agreed to the state’s recommendation of pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, because they said it was in the best interest of their client.
“This is really a sad case,” said Henry County Public Defender Gary Bowman. “It’s a case where a woman was abused over a period of time. She felt because of all of the abuse over the years, that with the use of cocaine, she had no choice but to defend herself that night. Wanda Stanley acted in a very bizarre way. She gave multiple stories to the police. As a result of the multiple stories, a jury might well decide she is not telling the truth.”
He said Stanley’s videotaped confession, in which she told different versions of the shooting, may have hindered her defense.
Later, it was reported that nine of the jurors, including the jury foreman, had voted Stanley “not guilty,” and three had voted her “guilty.”
“We believe that the jury was in the majority of voting for not guilty,” said Bowman. “However, the jury has been out almost eight hours and could not arrive at a unanimous verdict. Without a unanimous verdict, this case would have to be retried at a later date.
“I believe that she should have been found not guilty of this crime,” continued Bowman. “I think that the facts are as such that she was justified in shooting this man. But, she did not want to put herself through another trial, and she did not want to take the chance of being found guilty, so we entered a plea of voluntary manslaughter.”
The public defender said with Stanley’s plea bargain, she could serve time in prison, and afterward be placed on parole. He said, however, a murder conviction is an automatic 30-year sentence with “no hope of parole.”
He added that he did not like entering the guilty plea, but: “My client did not want to take the chance of being found guilty.”
Henry County Assistant District Attorney Sandi Rivers declined to comment on the case.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Jim Wright said, “I felt like, under the circumstances, it was a reasonable resolution to the case. After considering all of the evidence that had been presented, and the fact that it appeared that the jury was having difficulty reaching a verdict in the case, the plea to voluntary manslaughter seemed appropriate.”