By REGINA BUTLER Progress Staff Writer A Pontotoc County man will serve three years in the shooting death of his best friend after pleading guilty in circuit court last week. And as a part of his sentence, Judge Thomas Gardner ordered him to assist law enforcement officers and other groups “to appear publicly and speak against alcohol and drugs.” Joshua Cody Graham pled guilty in circuit court to charges of manslaughter in the shooting death of Christopher Eric Cooper on January 1, 2009. Graham received a 20-year sentence from Judge Gardner with 17 of those suspended provided he breaks no laws upon his release. He was also ordered to five years post release supervision. Both Graham and Cooper’s families were in the courtroom at the sentencing this past Friday. “I apologize from the depths of my heart and soul,” said Graham to the family before sentencing. His attorney, Jim Johnstone, asked the judge for mercy. “He is hard working. Every time we’ve talked, I’ve seen the pain and hurt in his eyes. He has made no excuses for his actions. He has never blamed anyone but himself and I just ask the court to take all that into consideration.” Johnstone went on to say that it has been tough for both families. “I think a lesson has been learned.” Judge Gardner said he had received numerous letters on Graham’s behalf and said he read them and saw that Graham was all these things that Johnstone said, “except for the presence of alcohol. It demonstrates very clearly the danger of a lifestyle of alcohol and drugs.” Judge Gardner readily admitted that there were no easy solutions in the matter. “There is nothing I can do to make it different.” In addition to the prison time, Graham was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victims Fund and $300 to the state crime lab.


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