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Manslaughter charged in VHS killing

Manslaughter suspect Walter Jefferson waits in Warren County Circuit Court for his arraignment this morning.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[1/29/04]The 20-year-old who had faced a possible death sentence for a homicide on school property will instead face a charge of manslaughter.

District Attorney Gil Martin said grand jurors, in session this week, “spent a lot of time on the case” deciding how Walter Jefferson, 20, 202 Cain Ridge Road, should be prosecuted.

He is accused of shooting O’Dare Lee Earl Mims, who was 20 when he died Sept. 10 near Vicksburg High School.

Jefferson’s arraignment this morning was in Warren County Circuit Court before Judge Frank Vollor. He had been charged with capital murder, allowed in the case because of a separate felony in the case possessing a weapon on school property.

Jefferson, who was enrolled as a junior at VHS at the time, still faces that charge. If convicted of both, the two charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 23 years, including 20 for the manslaughter charge, Martin said.

To obtain a conviction for murder, prosecutors must prove a killing was premeditated. A defendant may be convicted of manslaughter, on the other hand, for killing someone in the heat of passion, or suddenly losing control.

Grand jurors meet in private and consider only the state’s evidence, deciding whether enough exists for a case to proceed to trial.

The shooting happened near Memorial Stadium, across Lee and Drummond streets from Vicksburg High School, just about the time classes were to be dismissed for the day.

Mims had previously attended VHS, but was not a student.

Martin has said the killing had its roots in “a personal matter between them” and that it was not gang-related.