Jury sentences woman to 30-year max in stabbing murder

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A Miller County jury sentenced a Texarkana, Ark., woman who claimed self-defense to a maximum 30-year sentence Tuesday for second-degree murder.

Sherry Lashay Woods, 36, claimed she had to stab 43-year-old Jeffery Baker because he was attacking two of her teen-aged sons and a friend in front of her home Oct. 5, 2016, on East Tenth Street in Texarkana, Ark. Woods testified that Baker, who was drunk, had already assaulted Joyce Lewis and was attacking her sons when she repeatedly plunged a long kitchen butcher knife repeatedly into Baker in front of her home.

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Black argued that the evidence and testimony didn’t support Woods’ account. Woods testified Tuesday that she first stabbed Baker as he stood in front of her fenced-in yard after he kicked her gate and spat on her. Stephanie Black argued that a blood trail leading to a large blood pool which was left around Baker’s body when he fell on California Street around the corner from Woods’ home showed that Woods chased Baker down the road.

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According to the medical examiner, Baker had a blood alcohol level of .322 when he died. Lewis and Woods testified Baker had become physically aggressive toward Lewis and was yelling. Woods’ sons, ages 14 and 16, became involved as well. Woods claimed she had no choice but to stab Baker as he stood on the curb in front of her house, because he, “just wouldn’t stop coming.”

But other witnesses testified that Baker was walking down the street away from Woods’ house. Stephanie Black argued that the forensic evidence supported that testimony as blood droplets began in the middle of the road in front of Woods’ home, not at the curb, and moved in a straight line until they reached the pavement where Baker collapsed from blood loss and a collapsed lung.

Managing Public Defender Jason Mitchell argued that Woods was all too familiar with Baker’s tendency toward violence when drunk and that Baker was threatening Lewis, Woods, and Woods’ children when Woods acted with deadly force. Stephanie Black and Chuck Black said Woods’ reaction was too extreme, arguing that Woods and the others could have called the police or retreated to Woods’ home at any time.
“They weren’t hurt. They weren’t in danger of losing their lives,” Stephanie Black argued. “If somebody is drunk and cursing, plunging a knife eight inches deep into them isn’t reasonable.”

Both prosecutors pointed to the evidence.

“You can see the blood on this knife and that it did go all the way up to the hilt,” Chuck Black argued. “She stuck a knife in his gut and then she hacked at his shoulder and she hacked at his back.”

The jury deliberated about 10 minutes when asked to decide if Woods was guilty and spent about 15 minutes deciding her punishment. Woods was taken into custody at the trial’s conclusion. Circuit Judge Brent Haltom presided over the trial.

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