How DNA evidence works
Initially charged with multiple robberies and capital murder after a Lexington victim was shot in the stomach at his home, a man was sentenced Friday to nearly three decades in prison.
In 2015, Demarcus R. Harris — along with Charles B. Patton III and Caitlyn M. Conway — was charged with murder, three counts of first-degree robbery and burglary in connection with the death of 36-year-old Darnell Bates and other Lexington robberies. Harris was the last to be sentenced after the three pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Darnell Bates, 36, was killed on Oct. 5, 2014. Police were called to his house on Addie Street, off of Fifth Street, just before 5:30 a.m. that morning and found him with a gunshot wound.
Bates’ cousin, who was at Bates’ house at the time shooting, told investigators that he woke up early that morning and heard Bates interacting with a woman, according to court records. His cousin went back to sleep before waking up to hear Bates yelling for help.
Bates’ cousin found Bates in an altercation with two men. Bates’ cousin was able to wrestle a handgun from one of the men, but Bates was shot during the struggle, according to court records.
Bates worked at a local car wash and left behind his mother, children, brothers and other family and friends, a friend and co-worker said after his death.
On March 1, Harris, 26, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree robbery and one count of third-degree burglary, according to court records. He had originally also been charged with being a persistent felony offender, but that count was dismissed. The punishments were ordered to run consecutively for a total of 26 years, the same amount of prison time given to Patton and Conway.
Before pleading guilty to reduced charges, Harris could have been eligible for the death penalty if convicted, according to court records.
Harris’s attorney, Sarah Fightmaster, pleaded Friday for a shorter sentence and asked if the sentences for the robbery counts could run concurrently instead of consecutively.
Judge Lucy VanMeter refused, calling the case “tragic all the way around.” Harris made multiple mistakes, which called for the longer total prison term, she said.
Fightmaster acknowledged the grief from the victim’s family, but argued for changes in the court system.
“We live in a society where we hand out decades of punishment without realizing the effect that has on causing a cycle of recidivism,” Fightmaster said. “Shorter sentences are proven to be just as effective as longer sentences. I would urge everyone involved in criminal justice to take that into consideration. If our ultimate goal is to have a safer society, we need to give people the tools to succeed when they get out.”
Two of the robbery charges filed against Harris, Patton and Conway stemmed from incidents when Conway reportedly offered to have sex with men for money before having the two other men come in to rob the victim, according to court records.
Patton III, 26, pleaded guilty on April 19, 2017, to criminal facilitation of murder, first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree robbery and one county of third-degree burglary, according to court records.
Conway, 26, pleaded guilty on April 21, 2017, to the same charges as Patton.