JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A man convicted of the 2007 killing of his ex-girlfriend, Jackson State University student Latasha Norman, has been awarded a new trial.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday said a Hinds County judge erred in failing to tell jurors in Stanley Cole's trial that they could consider a manslaughter conviction as an alternative to a murder conviction.
The jury convicted Cole of murder in February 2010. Cole has acknowledged killing the 20-year-old woman, but maintains it was an accident. Cole said the two were fighting in a car when Norman hit her head and he couldn't resuscitate her.
He was sentenced to life in prison.
The Appeals Court, a 7-3 decisions, said defendants are entitled to jury instructions that present their side of the case.
"Had the jurors believed Cole's statement, they could not have applied those facts to the law because the trial judge provided them no instruction on the law of manslaughter," wrote Appeals Judge Eugene Fair Jr.
Appeals Judge Tyree Irving, in a dissent joined by two other judges, said a manslaughter instruction would imply that Cole's actions occurred during the heat of the moment.
"There was no evidence here that Cole was in a state of violent or uncontrollable rage. Therefore, his confession alone is insufficient to justify a ... manslaughter instruction," Irving said.
The case drew widespread attention for two weeks in November 2007 while police searched for the missing student.
Norman went missing after a class on Nov. 13, 2007. Her body was found Nov. 29, 2007, in a wooded area of north Jackson near Tougaloo College.
About a month before her disappearance, Norman filed an assault charge and accused Cole of hitting her in the face in the parking lot of a Pearl restaurant.