The sentencing in the 2nd Degree Murder trial of Chris Ferrell in the death of Wayne Mills has been delayed until April 24th, though the bulk of the sentencing hearing transpired as scheduled in the court of Steve Dozier in Nashville Friday (4-10) morning.
The reason for the delay was the defense wants to call witness Susan Branham before the conclusion of the sentencing. Susan Branham was a subpoenaed witness in the murder case, but was never called. She was the individual who called Chris Ferrell on the phone right after the shooting, and left right before Chris Ferrell shot Wayne Mills. Two other witnesses, T.J. Howard and Nadia Marcum, were also with Susan Branham during and after the shooting. Defense attorney David Raybin stated Susan Branham was at Disney World and could not attend the sentencing.
Many of the members of Wayne’s extended family were in attendance for the sentencing, including Wayne’s young son Jack who had not been in the courtroom for the trial. Only two friends or family members of Chris Ferrell appeared to be in attendance. Ferrell entered the court in an orange jumpsuit.
The prosecution called one of the responding officers to open the hearing, and then Wayne’s sister Paula Lemons addressed the court. “The biggest statement that I’d like to make is that I miss my brother,” she said, and then Wayne’s widow Carol Mills took the stand.
Carol Mills started her testimony by reading a letter her 8-year-old son Jack wrote to the court while fighting through tears. Then Carol made her own statement. “I’ve had 503 days to think about what I would say,” Carol started out, and then stated that she would take all the pain in the world if she could shield her son from the loss of his father.
The full transcript of both Jack Mills’ letter to the court, and Carol Mills’ testimony can be read by CLICKING HERE.
The defense turned in letters of support for Chris Ferrell from friends and family, and a friend of Ferrell named Shawn Davis flew in from Los Angeles to act as a character witness. “He may as well be a brother to me. Chris is a good man,” Mr. Davis said.
Chris Ferrell then addressed the court. “My actions in an instant changed so many lives forever,” he said, choking through tears. “I blame myself, first and foremost…Regretfully I tried to correct a mistake with another…I will always regret these actions…I was never allowed to express my sorrow or regret in court… If I were able to do anything I could, I would help them, Carol and Jack.”
Chris also apologized to his mother. “She’s suffered every day for what I have done.”
Chris Ferrell shot and killed Wayne Mills on November 23rd, 2013, just before 5 AM after an altercation that began when Mills lit a cigarette in the Pit & Barrel bar Chris Ferrell owned. The two were in the bar during an after hours party at the establishment when Chris Ferrell forcibly extinguished the cigarette Wayne Mills was smoking. This caused Wayne to act verbally hostile towards Ferrell, and Wayne threatened the bar owner. Then as Wayne turned to leave, Ferrell pulled out a .22 pistol and shot three times, with the third bullet striking Mills in the back of the head. Wayne later died of his wound at the Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.
During the jury trial in the first week of March, the court learned how Ferrell initially lied to police and told them Wayne Mills pulled a .45 revolver. Ferrell then planted the gun where Wayne had been sitting. He later recanted his story and instead said Wayne Mills had reached for his phone, but that he didn’t know if Wayne was going for a gun. Wayne fell outside of the bar after he was shot, and Ferrell dragged him back in and had an extended phone conversation before calling 911. During questioning by lead detective Leonard Peck in the case, Chris Ferrell broke down and told the detective what happened. Ferrell was later indicted on 2nd Degree Murder.
The death of Wayne Mills became a matter of national attention because of the songwriter’s friendship with Jamey Johnson, and because he was once a mentor to Blake Shelton, and to recent The Voice winner Craig Wayne Boyd. The NBC singing competition aired a tribute to Wayne during the last season of the show.
Wayne Mills was survived by his wife Carol, and a young son.
Saving Country Music will have much more coverage from the sentencing hearing shortly.