Jurors handed down a sentence of nine years in prison Friday for Tiffany James, the young mother who fatally stabbed her baby's father with a kitchen knife.
James, 20, was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday, avoiding a murder conviction and the potential for life in prison. She must serve at least half of her sentence before she is eligible for parole. She could have received up to 20 years.
By all accounts a promising student and dedicated mother, James had her life ahead of her on the afternoon of Nov. 20, 2009 when she killed Antwan Wolford, her live-in boyfriend.
Defense attorneys argued she was a domestic violence victim who feared for her life when she stabbed Wolford in the chest and back. But prosecutors painted James as a jealous girlfriend, angry that Wolford was preparing to obtain custody of a child he fathered with another woman.
“God help you for bringing his name through the mud today and through this whole trial. I don't want to see you again, ever,” Wolford's cousin and godmother La Tonya Ranson-Archer told James in a victim impact statement after the sentence was read.
“You got away with murder and you know you did,” she said.
Family and friends of James gasped at the sentence, and several quickly left the courtroom.
Defense attorney Robert Gebbia later said he was disappointed with the punishment and plans to appeal the manslaughter verdict. Probation would have been a better choice for James, who had no prior criminal history, he said.
James should have received the maximum sentence, Wolford's mother,Eashonne Wolford, said after the trial. Defense attorneys had argued during Friday's punishment hearing that sending James to prison would do nothing to ease the grief felt by Antwan Wolford's family and would simply ravage a second young life.
But prosecutor Christopher Ramos told jurors that probation for James would be “a joke,” allowing her to spend time with the son Antwan Wolford will never see again.
“Yes, she is a good candidate for probation,” he said. “But does she deserve it?”
Earlier Friday, Ramos asked Eashonne Wolford to recall the day she learned her son died.
“I kept saying, ‘I don't believe this. I don't believe Tiffany did this. I don't believe Tiffany did that to me,'” she said.
As she described her emotions, several onlookers left the courtroom. Others cried openly.
“When that white van came they backed it right up to the porch and I said, ‘Please don't take him. Please don't take him.' ... I didn't want them to take my baby away,” she said.
Under Reece's cross-examination, Wolford described James as a respectful young woman with whom both she and her son shared a close bond.
“You loved her, didn't you?” Reece asked.
“I still do,” came the reply, but Wolford said she still wanted to see her go to prison, adding, “I'm just asking for justice so I can get on with my life.”