A man scheduled to stand trial again this week on murder charges dating back to December 1991 pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and received a 20-year prison sentence Friday.
The shooting death of Jarvis Carson, a 21-year-old amateur boxer, on the night of Dec. 15, 1991, remained a mystery until 1998, when an anonymous tip to the Richmond County Sheriff's Department led Investigator Wayne Bunton to David Anthony Fisher.
Mr. Fisher, 35, was tried and convicted of murder last year, but Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. ruled in February the Richmond County Superior Court verdict could not stand.
It was improper to have allowed Mr. Fisher's ex-wife to testify against him, the judge ruled.
Bridget Fisher's testimony that Mr. Fisher bragged about killing a black man in December 1991 was damning, said Assistant District Attorney Patricia Johnson. "But we were not going to be allowed to present that testimony this time," Ms. Johnson said.
Considering what evidence was left, the fact an eyewitness could not be found, and that the parole board now has a policy not to give early parole to those convicted of violent crimes, a negotiated plea of voluntary manslaughter seemed appropriate in Mr. Fisher's case, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney William Davison said he and Mr. Fisher believe the voluntary manslaughter accurately reflected what happened the night Mr. Carson was shot.
"My client did not want to run away from responsibility," Mr. Davison said. But a gunshot fired during a confrontation was not malice murder, he said.
Mr. Fisher testified at his first trial that he and a friend came upon Mr. Carson and another young man in Barton Chapel. Heated words were exchanged, and Mr. Fisher shot Mr. Carson when the young man reached behind him, as if reaching for a gun.
Mr. Carson's friend testified Mr. Fisher was the one being confrontational that night and Mr. Carson made no threatening moves and did not have a gun.
Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet sentenced Mr. Fisher to the maximum 20-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter.
That sentence won't begin until Mr. Fisher finishes a five-year prison sentence he received last year for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.