Judge gives man who killed baby’s mother 20 years after plea deal

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2023

NATCHEZ — Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Debra Blackwell sentenced Devonte Jackson to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for  killing the mother of his baby daughter, Devonica Hammett.

Devonte Jackson

“I have the information about the numerous times you went and sought Miss Hammett out because you were having fights and it seems to have always been about this child,” Blackwell said. “All of your fights were about this child. You went there and you killed this child’s mother. You killed this child’s mother. Now, this child who is about to turn three years old, will never know her mother. And she will grow up all of her formative years and she will not know her father. You didn’t just take her mother away. You took her father away.

“And if she ever wants to have a relationship with you or ever wants to see you, it may be that when she looks in your eyes that she hates you, that she despises you for taking her mother away. And it never had to happen. You never had to go there,” Blackwell said.

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Jackson accepted a plea deal of a reduced charge of imperfect self-defense manslaughter in September 2023.

It’s the district attorney’s job to determine whether to take a case to trial or accept a deal, Blackwell told Jackson.

“I believe that’s all the mercy you are entitled to. I don’t even know that you were entitled to that much mercy. But that’s all the mercy you are going to get from me,” she said before sentencing Jackson to 20 years in prison.

On Aug. 14, 2021, Jackson was charged with murder in the shooting death of Devonica Hammett. Both Jackson and Hammett were 25 at the time.

Jackson drove to Hammett’s residence, 206 Country Club Drive in Natchez, at approximately 3:14 a.m. The two had been in a verbal altercation over the phone before Jackson drove to the residence and got into a physical altercation with Hammett in the front yard, which escalated to the shooting.

Jackson shot Hammett multiple times during that early morning.

About seven of Hammett’s family members gave victim impact statements Wednesday before Jackson was sentenced. Most said they were upset because District Attorney Shameca Collins’ offered and accepted the reduced charges and plea deal.

“How do you start this process of forgiveness when he shot the mother of his own child? Still we see no remorse,” said Charlie Rogers, Hammett’s father.

Several of her relatives said “the system” failed Hammett, who they said sought restraining orders against Jackson on several occasions.

“The killer is getting off with a slap on the wrist,” said her sister.

Another relative said Hammett’s family was not made aware a plea deal was being offered to Jackson.

“We weren’t informed by the DA that we weren’t going to get to testify,” said a woman who said she was Hammett’s best friend. “He threatened to kill her before. Then he actually did it. I saw him knock his own daughter out of (Hammett’s) arms just to get at her to fight her. And he didn’t just shoot her once. He shot her multiple times. He meant to kill her.”

Another family member said the district attorney accepted a plea “for a cold blooded murderer. We are angry about this plea bargain. I know she cried out for help … Devonte murdered her. This was not self-defense. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He came there with a gun. He had several options. This time he did not come at her with his fists. He brought a gun. And he shot her multiple times. He wanted to make sure she was dead. This is a great disservice to this community. What kind of message does it send to victims of domestic violence?” she asked.

Zach Jex, Jackson’s attorney, said, “For the benefit of family members, this is not a plea of self defense. This is manslaughter. He is admitting to wrongdoing. He wishes he had done something else.”

Jex argued that Hammett, too, could have done something else.

“At the time Mr. Jackson appeared at that residence, Hammett told someone on the phone she was going to fight Devonte. She could have called the police, called 911. She could have locked the door,” he said. “She didn’t do that. She went outside and a physical altercation started. Mr. Jackson had a busted lip when he was arrested.”

Jex said Jackson wore the gun he carried, for which he had an enhanced concealed carry permit, in a holster. He said the holster was found on the ground, indicating Hammett had grabbed for Jackson’s gun.

“It’s important we take into account the actual factual account,” of what happened,” Jex said.

Collins said she thinks Jackson went to the residence with the intent to harm Hammett.

“Did he intend to kill her? Maybe, maybe not. But he did go there to harm her,” Collins said.