Teen convicted

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 15, 2009

Teenager convicted in 2008 shooting death

By Billy Davis
A circuit jury deliberated for two hours and 18 minutes before finding an 18-year-old guilty of murdering a family friend during a fight.

The guilty verdict means Codie Allen Banton will serve a life sentence in the shooting death of Shane Keel Sr. on April 25, 2008.

The teenager shot Keel once with a bolt-action, 30-06 hunting rifle. Keel was fighting with Banton’s father, Harley Banton, at the elder Banton’s home in the Crossroads area.

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Keel, who was 31, died on the scene from the single gunshot to the abdomen. He is survived by a daughter and son, both of Oxford.  

Banton told authorities he acted in self-defense, but a 911 call to authorities from the elder Banton claimed an “accidental shooting” had taken place.

A juror on the murder trial described an “intense deliberation.”

“I feel bad for the defendant. He was a child,” said the juror. “But he became a man when he grabbed the 30-06 rifle and pulled the trigger.”

 On the witness stand Tuesday, the younger Banton claimed that Keel had been armed with a knife, and he had acted in self-defense when he saw it.

But authorities did not recover a knife from the scene, and Banton admitted under cross-examination that he did not tell a sheriff’s investigator that Keel had been armed.

Banton, under Mississippi law, will be eligible for parole in 2056, when he turns 65.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale, who presented the state’s case, said Banton was not offered a reduced charge by the state after Keel’s family objected to a plea offer.

The speedy trial, which concluded Tuesday morning, included only one witness for the defense, Banton himself.

Banton, under questioning by his attorney, David Walker, described a fight between Keel and Harley Banton, the teenager’s father.

“I was scared, you know,” Banton told Walker, describing Keel as a “big man” and his father as “little bitty.”

“I pointed (the rifle) at him to scare him,” Banton testified. “I just wanted to keep the trouble down.”

But Hale zeroed in on the elder Banton’s use of a shovel while Keel was fighting unarmed.

“Your dad had a shovel. You had a gun,” Hale said. “Sounds to me like you were ganging up.”

The elder Banton, who testified as a state’s eyewitness, is facing an aggravated assault charge for his use of the shovel.

Jurors also heard from Tina Kramer, the elder Banton’s girlfriend. She took the stand Monday as a second eyewitness for the state.

Codie Banton told jurors that his father and Keel ultimately fought because Keel had been groping Kramer. But he admitted to Hale that Kramer had not made that allegation during her testimony.

At some point in his 25-minute testimony, the younger Banton also said that Keel was the father of Kramer’s child.

The defendant testified that his father and Keel were both intoxicated when they fought.

The younger Banton admitted to smoking marijuana with Kramer, but said he drank only one beer before the shooting.