On Halloween, a judge declined to extend the life sentence of a man convicted in a 2015 shooting that killed one, injured two, and paralyzed a toddler. Then-17-year-old Cortez Sims opened fire inside a College Hill Courts apartment in early January as part of a yearlong gang feud. As explained in this article from Times Free Press, “jurors returned guilty verdicts in April for three counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count employing a firearm during a dangerous offense, and one count of first-degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence.”
Prior to the sentencing hearing, Sims was already serving that life sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. That said, defendants are eligible for parole after 51 years. However, prosecutors sought to have Sims serve additional time for his attempted murder convictions, a Class A felony that carries anywhere from 15 to 25 years. Into the picture came Chattanooga defense attorney Joshua Weiss. The defense lawyer said Sims’ hearing came down to a simple question: “Does he most likely die in prison, or does he definitely die in prison?” Weiss got in contact with several family members and friends of Sims who provided a different viewpoint. The criminal law attorney realized Sims grew up without a father, was sexually abused at a young age, and was bullied into fights at school.
Said Weiss, “The only thing Mr. Sims has left after today is hope and redemption. He says he will get his GED, he will work, he will better himself. And he may be able to come out and live his last few years on Earth. He’s asking for nothing more than that, something to strive for, something to be redeemed from.”
Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman sentenced Sims to 25 years for each attempted murder charge. But Steelman chose to run them “concurrently” to the life sentence. Simply put, this means Sims won’t serve additional time for them because they’re running simultaneously and not separately. The criminal law attorney Weiss confirmed that if Sims is ever released on parole, he will be at least 68 years old.
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