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Sanders guilty of murdering best friend’

[03/29/01] James Sanders was found guilty Wednesday afternoon and sentenced to two life sentences for killing and robbing the man he described as his best friend.

Sanders, who lived in Florence before his arrest, showed no emotion when the guilty verdicts were read. The jury, which has been sequestered during the three-day trial, deliberated for about three and a half hours.

The verdict came nine days after what would have been Paul Moore’s 25 birthday. He was 23 when James Sanders shot him in the back of the head.

“I am glad he will be in prison for the rest of his life because my son is gone forever,” said Paulette Wilkerson, Moore’s mother. “He doesn’t know how much pain he has caused this family.”

Sanders’ attorney, Eugene A. Perrier of Vicksburg, told the nine-man, three-woman jury in his closing statement that his client did kill Moore, but it was in the heat of passion and therefore manslaughter not murder.

Manslaughter carries a sentence of 20 years instead of a life sentence for murder.

Assistant District Attorney John Bullard said that defense didn’t pan out.

“He is trying to reduce his own conduct,” Bullard told the jury before they began deliberations.

Sanders, 23, along with his half-brother, Greg Sanders, and Moore went into the woods off Gowall Road around 4 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 17, 2000. Moore’s body was found there three weeks later with a bullet wound in the back of his head and his wallet and pager gone.

Greg Sanders, 18, testified Tuesday that his brother told him beforehand that he intended to kill Moore.

“I didn’t really think he was going to do it,” Sanders said.

He pleaded guilty in April to accessory to armed robbery after the fact and was given a suspended sentence. He was released from jail April 21 after agreeing to testify against his brother.

Greg Sanders led authorities to Moore’s body March 12, and the brothers were arrested the next day.

James Sanders said during his testimony Tuesday afternoon that the three men were in the woods looking for marijuana and he and Moore began to fight.

He denied taking Moore’s wallet and said his brother disposed of the pager.

James Sanders had testified that he felt he and Moore were closer than brothers. The two lived in the same house for years, and Moore served as James Sanders’ best man at his wedding.

“I think this case justified the jury verdict,” Bullard said. “It was obvious from the evidence that Sanders shot Paul Moore in the back of the head and never paid any more regard to his dead friend or his family.”

Moore’s brother, Michael Moore, testified that after his brother’s death, James Sanders told him his brother had gone to Florida.

“I have forgiven him (James Sanders) for what he did because I didn’t want to give him any more power over my life,” Wilkerson said. “This has been the hardest year of my life and I am glad it is over.”

Circuit Court Judge Isadore Patrick, who presided over the trial, will decide Friday morning if Sanders’ sentences will run consecutively or at the same time.