A Lawrenceville judge handed out a 140-year sentence to a Gwinnett teen, Damia Mitchell, on Monday after police said she shot and killed a woman in 2021.
Prosecutors say Damia Mitchell, 17, fired up to 19 shots at a home on Valentine’s Day 2021, killing Faith Burns in a Dacula area subdivision. Police said that Mitchell and Burns did not know each other, but the Burns knew Mitchell’s ex-girlfriend.
Mitchell had sent texts to the ex-girlfriend that she planned to shoot up her house and jump her. Police said Burns just happened to be at the ex-girlfriend’s home when Mitchell and four other girls showed up at the house and started shooting.
Prosecutors argued that the shooting was a gang-related ex-lovers’ quarrel. The four other girls who went to the home were charged along with Mitchell.
But Mitchell’s family said her sentence is too much.
Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas has been following the story since it broke in February 2021. Michell’s family said the 17-year-old had no record and insists that she wasn’t the shooter.
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“I just know something needs to be done. What they did in court wasn’t right,” Vanissa Jackson, Mitchell’s mother, said. “She is not the shooter. She didn’t do this.”
Mitchell’s aunt, Lena Hall, said the 140-year sentence would rob her of her life.
“No record, a child. She won’t even get the opportunity to live her life, have her own kids,” Hall said.
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Prosecutors painted a very different picture of Mitchell, calling her a killer who is tied deeply to the street gang life.
The jury didn’t convict Mitchell of murder, instead opting for voluntary manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault and eight counts of street gang terrorism. The jury found she wasn’t carrying a gun, and she was not declared guilty of two other gang charges.
Another of Mitchell’s aunts, identified only as Dori, said her niece had known the girls involved in the fight since elementary school.
“They’ve always hung out together, so it’s not like they are in a gang,” she said. “They are a group of girls who like hanging out and doing typical things.”
Prosecutors showed the jury videos and texts they say proved the teens were tied to violent gangs and had a history of organizing street fights. Eighty of the 140 years given to Michell involve gang charges, something the family said they are having a hard time comprehending.
The family plans to protest at the county courthouse.
According to the district attorney’s office, the other four defendants in the case have yet to go to trial.
Mr Burns reacts
Allen Burns, Faith’s father, said this helps bring some justice for his daughter, who was 20 years old at the time of her death.
“I feel a sigh of relief for for my child, just getting some type of justice,” he said. “My family, we’re trying to heal now we’ve dealt with this for like 16 months.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a no-win situation for everybody,” Burns said. “We all lose. They lose their child in jail; we don’t have our child. Who wins? Nobody wins.”
Burns says his daughter did not know Mitchell but knew Mitchell’s ex-girlfriend.
“Faith was hanging out with her ex-girlfriend and they came over that house that day because they were going back and forth with beef. My daughter was an innocent bystander,” Burns said. “Faith did not even know any of the girls that day.”
Court documents state Mitchell was associated with the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods. This criminal street gang has had an extensive history in the Atlanta area, and she was attempting to elevate her status within the gang.
In addition, Burns, who has been present at every court date and hearing, says he’s not surprised the other defendants received much lower sentences.
“They’re up here wondering why the other girls got 4 to 10 years,” he said. “She’s the one that assembled that posse to come over there. They’re like well she ain’t the shooter, but you brought the shooter over to the house that day.”
Burns wants people to remember his daughter as the happy, funny, soccer-loving sister, aunt, and daughter she was. He hopes her legacy stays alive in those who knew her and shared her memory with others.
“She was giving,” he said. “I seen all these kids that came out on her funeral who where like, “Faith did this, Faith did that,” and me and my wife would look at each other, like, “You’re talking about Faith… she is such a amazing giving person. [This] hurts so bad. Never to have that again, you know?”