Barquis McKnight shot and killed Eddie Jones in May in self-defense, trying to protect those close to him, McKnight’s attorney argued Friday in Rock County Court.
McKnight, 33, of Beloit, made several “stupid” decisions that led to Jones’ death, but McKnight had no intention of hurting anyone, defense attorney Robert Jambois said before recommending his client be sentenced to three years in prison and seven years of extended supervision.
Judge James Daley followed the state’s recommended punishment and sentenced McKnight to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years extended supervision on charges of homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Of the 40 or more homicide cases Jambois has seen go to trial, McKnight’s case for self-defense is among the strongest, Jambois said.
Had the first-degree intentional homicide charge not been reduced to homicide by negligent use of a weapon, McKnight would have gone to trial, and the jury likely wouldn’t have convicted him, Jambois said.
Prosecutor Gwanny Tjoa agreed McKnight had a strong case for claiming self-defense.
When McKnight found out his cousin had fallen in with the wrong crowd and had Jones’ gun, McKnight went to his cousin’s house to retrieve it. After getting the gun, he went to 116 S. Franklin St. to pick up another person, Jambois said.
“His intention at the time was to get rid of the gun,” he said.
McKnight was at the home for five or six minutes before Jones showed up and demanded his gun. McKnight refused to hand it over and tried to leave when Jones headbutted McKnight, Jambois said.
Jones went for his gun he saw in McKnight’s pocket, and a struggle ensued. At some point, McKnight pulled the trigger, killing Jones, Jambois said.
McKnight left and tossed the gun out the window. That was one mistake among many, Jambois said.
McKnight knew, as a felon, he shouldn’t have taken the gun from his cousin’s house. He should have called police or at least stayed out of others’ business. He later lied to police instead of telling them how the death happened, Jambois said.
Jambois said the charge reduction reflects the prosecution’s recognition McKnight shot in self-defense. He reasonably and truly believed he was in danger, Jambois said.
Still, McKnight realizes it’s a serious thing to take a life, and that’s why he pleaded guilty to both final charges, Jambois said.
McKnight took a gun to protect people, but taking the gun is what ended getting someone killed, Tjoa said.
Jones’ wife, Andrea McCravy, spoke in court with her family seated behind her. She said she’d been with Jones since they were 17.
“Life has been very hard and difficult because we grew as one, and that’s what we’re used to,” she said.
McCravy said she’s grown closer to God, who has seen her through the past nine months. She said she prays for McKnight and harbors no ill will toward him.
“He has to answer to God when it’s all said and done,” she said.
A weeping McKnight apologized for his actions but didn’t directly address the victim’s family.
“I made some terrible choices,” he said. “And it’s something I gotta live with every day.”
Before passing judgement, Daley said it was the last sentence he would carry out. Friday was his last day on the bench before retirement.
Daley said when he started as a judge, he’d hoped he could do something about the men he’d seen make terrible decisions and get sent to prison at a young age, ripping them from their families and communities.
Daley said he was wrong; the best he could do was dispense justice in each case.
As McKnight left the courtroom, Daley pointed out McKnight’s family sitting behind him.
“Use that love of your family and support of your family to move on with the rest of your life,” Daley said. “Make your family proud.”
McKnight has 279 days of sentence credit.