Juror leads to mistrial in murder case

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Columbus woman who faced life in prison for the stabbing death of her daughter's boyfriend will do three years for the crime.

A judge declared a mistrial on two of Cynthia Sanders' four charges Friday after jurors revealed they could not come to an unanimous verdict. They were 11-1 on the charges of felony murder and voluntary manslaughter.

They did, however, find Sanders guilty of one count of Possession of a Knife During the Commission of a Crime. After deliberating all day Friday, they found her not guilty of malice murder.

Cynthia Sanders, 50, was accused of stabbing her daughter's ex-boyfriend to death inside an East Columbus home last October.

In his opening statements at the Columbus Government Center Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney David Helmick says Sanders has an "inhuman inability to stay out of situations" and couldn't mind her own business, taking it to an extreme especially when it came to her daughter, Stephanie Smith, who was dating the victim, 33-year-old Calvin Jones.

On October 25, 2010 Helmick says Sanders went over to where Smith and Jones were arguing, involving herself in the situation with no legitimate reason to be there and ended up stabbing Jones "through the heart with a knife."

Jones, he says, had been diagnosed with a blood clotting problem and was on blood thinners when he was stabbed.

Helmick called Sanders and her daughter a toxic tag-team, "trouble with a capital T," and told the jury Jones wasn't a perfect man or the best boyfriend but that was no reason he had to be killed.

That day, he says Smith was going crazy at their friend's house on School House Drive, provoking Jones and making a scene, breaking bottles outside and slashing Jones' tires. Jones was unarmed.

That's when Sanders showed up, who Helmick called the "enforcer," and the fighting came to a boiling point. He says Sanders was out of control and took Jones' life for no good reason.

In a videotaped statement with police, Sanders admitted to stabbing Jones. She says he grabbed her, hit her over the head with a lamp, walked off and came at her again. That's when she says she grabbed the knife and "jabbed" him with it. Helmick says the butcher knife pierced his heart.

He thinks Sanders and witnesses are trying to cover up what happened in the house that day and told jurors Sanders had pulled a knife on Jones before, demonstrating her "MO."

According to Helmick, Sanders' self defense claims don't stand up under Georgia law since she was not at all reasonably or honestly defending herself and the killing happened out of anger and revenge.

Meanwhile, Sander's attorney, Stacey Jackson paints a much different picture of Calvin Jones, saying he had been fighting with Stephanie Smith earlier in the day, choking her and threatening to shoot her and drinking a full bottle of liquor.

When Sanders showed up at the scene of the crime, a home that belonged to a friend of Smiths and Jones, Jackson says Jones threatened to kill her and cracked her over the head with a ceramic lamp. During the scuffle, Sanders stabbed him and Jackson says he was so filled with rage, he was still chasing after Sanders after he'd been injured.

Jackson says the stabbing was justified under the law because Sanders was protecting herself, saying she knew Jones had a "violent history." Jackson cited three other times when he had injured her daughter during arguments. He says Jones was 6'4" and more than 200 lbs. Sanders is 5'5".

Cynthia Sanders took the stand in her own defense Thursday morning, walking the jury through her account of what happened that day. She says Jones was cursing her and acting in a way she had never seen before. When she tried to leave and walk out the door, she says he hit her with the lamp and grabbed her. When he came at her again, she say she grabbed the knife and "cut" him. She told the court Jones kept saying "I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you." Sanders says she was scared and feared for her life.

After Jones died, Sanders says she willingly went to the Police Department to tell detectives what happened and even told them where the knife was.

After the verdict and mistrial, Chief Muscogee County Superior Court Judge John Allen sentenced Sanders to five years in prison on the knife charge, three of which she'll spend in a state penitentiary and the remaining two on probation. He says she didn't bring the knife to the fight but it was a direct cause of Jones' death.

"We're happy that the jury found her not guilty of malice murder and also that they were hung on voluntary manslaughter and felony murder which tells me there were at least a few jurors that felt Ms. Sanders acted in self defense," Stacey Jackson said after the verdict and sentencing.

"It was wrong for what she did. She took a life. The Bible thou shall not kill but she did. She killed a lot of our lives when she took his life. I just wish she would have gotten more time than that because I can't bring my grandson back," said Rose Jones, the victim's grandmother.

David Helmick says the District Attorney's Office considers Sanders' case a "pending trial," meaning that she will be prosecuted for felony murder and voluntary manslaughter again the future.

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