A Columbia County man convicted of murder in 1994 will be released from prison after his conviction was overturned and he was resentenced this morning.
Keith Brian Sheppard, 56, was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for the fatal shooting of Jessie B. Rickerson in 1992.
After a failed 1996 appeal, Sheppard’s conviction was overturned under a habeas corpus claim. Sheppard claimed the jury wasn’t charged to also consider voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included charge to murder and that his attorney didn’t object at the trial or bring it up at the appeal.
Sheppard, who has been in prison since his conviction in October 1994, could have been retried, but opted to accept a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s office.
“If they (prosecutors and Sheppard’s defense attorney) think this is a good resolution, then I’m inclined to follow that resolution,” Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet said.
Sheppard pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Following the recommendation of prosecutors, Overstreet sentenced him to 16 years in prison, with credit for the more than 16 years he’s already served, followed by four years of probation. The first year of probation will be intensive and Sheppard cannot have contact with Rickerson’s family.
“For all intents and purposes, he’s served all the time in prison that would be required,” Assistant District Attorney Rex Myers said.
Police said in 1992, Sheppard and Rickerson were arguing at a convenience store in Harlem. During the argument, Rickerson pointed at Sheppard and slapped him. Sheppard then pulled a .25-caliber pistol and shot Rickerson in the chest.
Sheppard remained at the store, rendering aid to Rickerson, and admitted shooting him when police arrived.
Numerous members of family members of Rickerson and Sheppard were present at the hearing.
“I hope,” Rickerson’s niece, Angela Rickerson Clark, said, “if he gets a second chance, he does something with it besides ruin lives.”