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Ruffin, Griggs plead guilty to manslaughter

By By Suzanne Monk/The Meridian Star
Nov. 14, 2001
Two men indicted for capital murder in the May 27 shooting death of Tyrone Moffett pleaded guilty to manslaughter Tuesday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
Morris Alando Griggs, 32, was sentenced to 15 years with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with nine suspended and six to serve. Griggs will also pay $4,083 in restitution to the victim's family.
Johnathan Ruffin, 28, pleaded guilty "in the blind," which means his lawyers and the district attorney's office did not make a sentencing recommendation.
Circuit Judge Robert Bailey instructed MDOC officials to conduct a pre-sentencing investigation and prepare a report of their findings. The report will list a number of factors that may come into play, including a 1995 conviction for shooting into a dwelling in Alabama. Ruffin served four years, eight months for that crime.
Bailey scheduled a formal sentencing hearing for Dec. 6.
Transition from capital murder to manslaughter
The district attorney's office announced in October that it would not seek the death penalty against Ruffin and Griggs.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Angero said then that death penalty cases are "few and far between," and noted that there were circumstances associated with this case that mitigated against the death penalty.
Angero expanded on that comment Tuesday, as he explained why the defendants were allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter instead of being tried for murder.
The mitigating factor was the alleged criminal nature of the gathering during which Moffett was killed.
The shooting occurred about 10 p.m. on Will Wright Road in Lauderdale County. Moffett's body was found beside his car, next to the open driver's door.
Angero said the prosecution would have shown during the course of a trial that Ruffin fired the shots that killed Moffett.
Moffett's father and a number of friends and family members were present in the courtroom as Ruffin and Griggs pleaded guilty.
Other arrests
Two other men were arrested in connection with the death of Tyrone Moffett.
In June, sheriff's investigators charged Derrick Dewayne Nicholson of Lisman, Ala, with capital murder. A Lauderdale County grand jury in July declined to indict him.
Tyrone Tillman of Lauderdale County was also arrested and charged as an accessory after the fact of murder. The same grand jury declined to indict him in July, but instructed investigators to continue gathering evidence against him for presentation to a grand jury meeting this week in the Lauderdale County Courthouse.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1w551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at smonk@themeridianstar.com.

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