Cortez Sims sentenced to life for murder

Cortez Sims sentenced to life for murder

April 7th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Cortez Sims, the 17-year-old suspect in a 2015 deadly apartment shooting at College Hill Courts, appears before Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Robert D. Philyaw for a detention hearing on Jan. 12, 2015.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

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Cortez Sims, 19, was sentenced to life in prison late Friday night after jurors convicted him of first-degree murder in a 2015 shooting.

Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman said Sims will be sentenced May 22 for his other three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a deadly offense — of which he was also found guilty by jurors.

"I'm so overwhelmed with so much joy. My baby girl is looking down on me," Sebrina Robinson — whose daughter, Talitha Bowman, 20, was killed Jan. 7, 2015, when Sims walked into a College Hill Courts apartment with a gun — said after the verdict.

Sims' trial, which began Wednesday and involved a paralyzed child, a reluctant witness, and a 2014 gang feud characterized by "revenge after revenge after revenge," went to the jury after closing arguments Friday.

Sims, then 17, was an Athens Park Blood member who sought out Marcel Christoper, an associate with the Bounty Hunter Bloods, after his name came up in connection with a homicide six days earlier, prosecutors said.

Bowman answered the door of Horton's College Hill Courts apartment on Jan. 7, 2015, and told Christopher he had a guest. Sims walked upstairs and opened fire in two bedrooms, killing Bowman, injuring Christopher and Horton, and paralyzing Horton's 1-year-old from the waist down, prosecutors said.

"Hold him accountable for the hell he unleashed on the second floor of that apartment at 773 Main St.," Assistant District Attorney Kevin Brown told jurors during closing arguments Friday, pointing at Sims.

Christopher and Horton both testified Sims was the shooter during a Juvenile Court transfer hearing in 2015 that ensured the 17-year-old would be tried as an adult.

But neither testified in person during Sims' trial.

Christopher, who refused to take the stand again, was intimidated when another gang member promised Sims during a jailhouse phone call that he would find Christopher and command him not to talk anymore, according to a recording played back for jurors.

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Horton, whose baby is still alive, was shot multiple times in May 2016 and dumped on the 2100 block of Elder Street. No arrest has been made in her case. Prosecutors introduced both of their prior identifications using a Tennessee rule that addresses unavailable witnesses.

Defense attorneys declined to call their own witnesses Friday morning after prosecutors rested their case and instead cross examined the state's officers.

Because the burden of proof rests with the state, prosecutors give two closing arguments.

After Brown delivered the first, however, Sims' defense attorneys declined to give one, ending the trial Friday at lunchtime.

Jurors began deliberating around 3 p.m.

It's unclear what they debated in their private discussions, but defense attorneys said Thursday that Horton identified a different shooter during the 2015 transfer hearing.

Defense attorney Clancy Covert suggested a gang member from a different Blood group who lived near the shooting was responsible.

Prosecutors reacted by calling the man and his girlfriend and introduced receipts that placed them in an East Ridge hotel on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7.

The Times Free Press will not identify the man since he was not charged in the 2015 crime.

Defense attorneys also emphasized no DNA evidence connected Sims to the crime scene and that a gun retrieved from one of Sims' relatives did not fire the multiple 9mm shell casings collected from the apartment.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.