CATEGORY: Courts

AUTHOR: SUMMER

HED:Feazell sentenced to five life terms

By Jane Clark Summers

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH - The few hours of freedom an Alcorn County man spent last year after escaping from jail will cost him the rest of his life in prison.

Danny Feazell, who escaped from custody 13 days after being convicted of manslaughter a year ago, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without parole in connection with the escape.

An Alcorn County jury convicted Feazell on Monday on two counts of attempted carjacking, aggravated assault, grand larceny and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. Circuit Court Judge Frank Russell sentenced Feazell, 39, to concurrent life terms in prison on those five counts.

By law, the sentence for jail escape must run consecutive to the sentence he was serving when the escape occurred, Judge Russell said. Feazell is serving a 20-year term for manslaughter. He was convicted July 23, 1997, in connection with the Aug. 25, 1996, beating of Forrest Brawner.

Brawner, 47, who was married to Feazell's ex-wife, died on Aug. 26, 1996, a few hours after the beating.

Earlier convictions

Court records showed Feazell had been out of prison about five weeks when he attacked Brawner. Feazell was released June 19, 1996, after serving one year and 265 days in connection with an aggravated assault conviction. He was sentenced to 12 years, with eight years suspended in that case.

Because of the two prior convictions, Feazell was indicted as a habitual criminal, Assistant District Attorney Jim Pounds said.

Because those felonies involved a violent crime against another person, he qualified for what prosecutors call the "big" habitual act. Under this law, prison terms cannot be reduced or suspended and Feazell will spend the rest of his life in prison without parole.

Taking the stand in his own defense during the one-day trial Monday, Feazell said he escaped because he feared for his life. He accused the sheriff, a county judge and a deputy of being in a conspiracy to cause him bodily harm. Jurors took only 10 minutes to deliberate before finding him guilty.

When asked if he had anything to say to the court prior to sentencing Tuesday, Feazell complained that none of the witnesses he asked to be subpoenaed were called to testify for him. Defense attorney Clay S. Nails said the defendant provided no "concrete guidance" in helping prepare the case and that after interviewing the suggested witnesses, he felt it was in Feazell's best interest not to call them.

"You've made some poor choices in life, Mr. Feazell," Judge Russell said. "I regret it for you but I also regret it for the numerous victims who have been involved in your numerous misdeeds."

Some of the relatives of the man Feazell killed appeared relieved with the sentences.

Brandon Brawner, brother of Forrest Brawner, said the trial and sentence has brought some relief for the family.

"It has been an ordeal," Brawner said. "It is justice as far as I am concerned. It won't bring Forrest back, but it helps make the family feel better."

The escape

On Aug. 5, 1997, Feazell overpowered a deputy, who was driving him to a dental appointment, and caused the patrol car to crash into a bridge as he wrestled away the deputy's handgun.

Reserve Deputy Gary Lee Walker testified Feazell pointed the gun at his hip and pulled the trigger but a safety mechanism kept the weapon from discharging.

Witnesses testified that Feazell then used the gun in an attempt to carjack three vehicles.

A woman with a small infant in her car sped away when Feazell approached her and stuck the gun in the window, Walker testified. Prosecutors never learned the identity of that motorist.

Trucker Tommy Durham said he jumped out of his 18-wheeler, taking the key with him, when Feazell climbed in the passenger side with gun in hand.

Motorist Jeff Rencher said he kept backing his car down the highway as Feazell approached, waving a gun at him.

Unable to start the patrol car or commandeer a passing vehicle, Feazell jumped over a bridge bannister and escaped into a wooded area in the Strickland community, witnesses said.

He was apprehended about 34 hours later after a manhunt involving more than 100 law enforcement officers, volunteers, search dogs and aircraft. He was still in possession of the deputy's handgun when he was caught.

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