The man found guilty in July of the first degree murder of Marcus Jackson will spend the next 50 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The trial of 21-year-old Avery Berry lasted two days and took nine hours of deliberation from jurors to reach a verdict on the events that occurred during the October 2014 shooting.
Berry is accused of fatally shooting Jackson, who was 24-year-old at the time of his death, during a skirmish involving Jackson and Berry’s half-brother Shakil.
In addition to first degree murder, which carries a sentencing range of 20-60 years behind bars, Berry was also awaiting a sentence for using a firearm in the murder, which carries a minimum of 25-years in prison.
Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll recommended a harsher sentence for Berry of at least 30 to 40 years behind bars for each count. Noll explains…
“I felt that given the fact that the defendant didn’t take responsibility for his actions that night by pleading guilty and given the facts in the case… the facts that the victim was unarmed and was shot multiple times, that warranted a sentence in the 30 to 40 range. The enhancement is 25 to life. I felt the minimum of 25 was inappropriate because this gun was obtained illegally and he didn’t have a FOID card. I felt those factors deserve a little more time than the minimum 25 year enhancement.”
Berry’s attorney Bruce Locher, who arrived late to the sentencing, an act Judge Peter Cavanagh felt “disrespected the victim” and his family, requested a new trail for Berry, but that was denied.
In detailing the events that took place prior to the shooting, Locher would claim “a large number of individuals came to Berry’s house seeking revenge” that October night and Jackson “had no business” being at Berry’s residence.
Locher explained Berry was “defending his brother” when the shooting occurred and feels “the evidence in the case didn’t establish proof beyond reasonable doubt.”
Locher recommended Berry be sentenced to the minimum time of 45-years in the IDOC.
Multiple family members of Berry took the stand in his defense, including Avery Berry’s mother, Deidra Lockhart.
Lockhart told the court her son was “a good, loving kid” who on that October night, “feared for his life and his brother’s.”
One of Avery Berry’s brothers, Eugene Lewis said the shooting was “something that went somewhere where it shouldn’t have, over something so trivial.”
A letter from 21-year-old Haley Riley, the mother of Marcus Jackson’s two year old son and his former girlfriend, was submitted to the court and detailed the impact the shooting had on her and her family.
Avery Berry addressed the court before receiving his sentence. He said, “I’m not the monster people think I am. I never wanted anyone to die. I feared for my family’s life. My brother’s house has been shot at repeatedly and law enforcement has done nothing. I’m sorry for all that happened.”
Berry’s verdict was handed down by Judge Cavanagh, in the presence of a packed courtroom and a dozen members of local law enforcement.
Berry received a 25-year sentence to the Illinois Department of Corrections for first degree murder and an additional 25-year sentence for using a firearm in the murder.
Noll says a case like this is a tragedy in every sense of the word.
“Hopefully the community learns from this and knows if an individual picks up a gun and fires it at another individual, our office is going to take that seriously and they are going to be aggressively prosecuted for things like this.”
Berry was given credit for 657 days served behind bars. Berry must serve 100 percent of his sentence.