Family says no justice served after son’s killer struck plea deal, gets lighter prison sentence

CHARLOTTE — The pandemic is contributing to a backlog of court cases, forcing families to wait even longer to get justice for their loved ones.

The courts were shut down for most of the year, but cases didn’t go anywhere, creating a huge headache for the system.

A family told reporter Glenn Counts that they believe a man who was accused of killing their son was let off easy because of a plea deal.

Phillip Young was 29 years old when he was murdered in July of 2018.

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“He was a wonderful young man, vibrant life, looking forward to the future,” said Marlene Joshua-Henderson, Young’s mother.

“This was not a whodunnit,” she said. “This was a why did you do it?”

Police arrested Michael DeBerry and charged him with first-degree murder in Young’s shooting death in northeast Charlotte.

“I cannot fathom how you can rationalize making deals with someone who you know is a murderer,” Joshua-Henderson said.

Last month, prosecutors cut a deal with Deberry and he took it.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and given the time he has already served, he could be released from prison in as little as 10 years.

“We are beyond upset,” Joshua-Henderson said. “We’re feeling as if we are being victimized all over again.”

Young’s family believes the reason prosecutors made that deal, was because the courts are clogged up due to the pandemic and this was their way of dealing with the backlog.

State judiciary records show how murder cases have piled up in Mecklenburg County.

“So essentially, we have a murderer who was able to negotiate a lower sentence,” Joshua-Henderson said.

The district attorney’s office said that was not true in Young’s case and overall, it has not cut deals because of the backlog.

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Prosecutors said in a statement: “Decisions about how to proceed with cases are not based on the pandemic but rather an ongoing analysis of the available evidence in each individual case.”

Prosecutors said DeBerry went to Young’s home on Camrose Drive off The Plaza to buy marijuana and at some point, there was a struggle over a gun.

There was insufficient evidence to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant went to the home with the intent of robbing the victim, and they could not prove who initiated the struggle, the district attorney’s office stated.

“That is very contrary to what was explained to us when we walked out of the courtroom in 2019,” Joshua-Henderson said.

The family is also upset that the offer that was accepted is for less time than the first plea deal offer made after DeBerry rejected it.

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“That is no justice,” Joshua-Henderson said. “That is a travesty of justice. That in exchange for a life for a father, for a man who served this country. That’s a slap in the face.”

DeBerry was sentenced to between 10 and 13.5 years in prison and because he’s been in jail since 2018, he could get out in as little as 8 years.

For context, the range of a second-degree murder sentence is anywhere from what DeBerry got to life in prison.

(Watch the video below: Courts face backlogs due to COVID-19 shutdowns as families wait for justice)