Judge Gerald Fisher, who imposed the minimum sentence for the voluntary manslaughter charge, said that he had searched for ways to make the sentence less strict, but that there was nothing that would allow him to sentence Deon Thornton to less than the 90 months described in sentencing guidelines.
“We have a lot of cases that come before us that are indeed very tragic. But I can think of none more tragic than this,” Fisher said in announcing his decision. “I know Deon Thornton will suffer for this for the rest of his life.”
Thornton pleaded guilty 11 days after being presented with the charge and declined to review the evidence against him. In court he said that the government’s belief that he stabbed his brother after they had been drinking and had an argument was correct.
Reading from a handwritten letter Friday, Deon Thornton apologized to his family: his grandmother, his daughter, his niece and sister-in-law, among other family members.
“I’m so so sorry,” he said. “I’m missing my only best friend, Derrick. I spend nights crying about my brother.”
The family gathered in Judge Gerald Fisher’s courtroom on Friday morning did not separate into opposing camps as so often happens, one side for the victim, one side for the defendant. Instead they represented both victim and defendant, acknowledging that the pain they experienced in losing Derrick Thornton to murder was equal to the potential pain of lossing his brother, Deon Thornton, to prison.
“Derrick and Deon, our brothers, are gone from our sight,” the men’s cousin, Donnell Jones told the court. “One is dead. We buried his remains. One is alive. He remains in prison.”
Thirty family members signed Jones’ letter in support of Deon Thornton.
In addition to the 90 months in prison that Fisher sentenced Deon Thornton to, he mandated alcohol and mental health counseling, including anger management classes, and five years supervised release.
“A sentence given to Deon is a sentence given to us all,” Jones said. “The crime is very serious and we accept responsibility as a family. How did we permit something like this to happen? Deon, we love you and we love Derrick.”
Read the US Attorney’s Office press release below:
Man Sentenced to 7 ½ Years in Prison In February 2011 Stabbing Death of His Brother
- Killing Followed an Argument That Started in Their Apartment -
WASHINGTON - Deon Thornton, 21, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 7 ½ years in prison in connection with the recent stabbing death of his 22-year-old brother, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Thornton pled guilty in February 2011 to voluntary manslaughter while armed. He was sentenced in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the Honorable Gerald I. Fisher. The judge also ordered the Thornton be placed on five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.
The defendant lived with his brother, Derrick Thornton, in an apartment building in the 2200 block of Champlain Street NW. According to the government’s evidence, both brothers had been drinking alcohol during the evening of February 11, 2011 and got involved in a verbal argument inside their shared apartment.
At the plea hearing, Deon Thornton admitted that, following the verbal argument, he went to the lobby of the apartment building armed with a knife. In the lobby, Deon Thornton initiated a physical altercation with his brother. During this altercation, Deon Thornton stabbed his unarmed brother multiple times in the chest with the knife.
Shortly thereafter, Deon Thornton fled the scene. Derrick Thornton was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead approximately one hour later.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the efforts of those who worked on the case from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), including Homicide Detectives Robert Arrington and Dwayne Partman. He also commended Paralegal Specialist Phaylyn Hunt and Victim Witness Advocate Marcey Rinker. Finally, he commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Melinda A. Williams, who investigated and prosecuted the case.