Derrell Bennett Withdraws Guilty Plea in Murder of Keith Banks

Judge Ronna Beck granted a motion Friday to withdraw the guilty plea entered by Derrell Bennett last year.

Bennett pled guilty to second-degree murder while armed in connection with the shooting death of Keith Banks in November.

Attorneys in the case agreed that 17 years in prison was the appropriate sentence for Bennett, who was scheduled to be sentenced Friday. The motion to withdraw the plea was filed last week. Beck scheduled Bennett’s new trial date for August 5.

According to the motion filed by defense attorney Brian McDaniel, Bennett entered his plea of guilty not because he was in fact guilty, but because he wished to take advantage of the negotiated plea offer.

Bennett was also worried that Reginald Vance would testify against him, leading to an erroneous verdict, the documents said. Had Bennett been convicted at trial, he would have faced a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

According to the plea agreement signed by Bennett last year, Banks and Bennett had been arguing about money owed to Bennett from a drug purchase that Banks refused to pay for.

On the morning of Nov. 12, 2010, Banks and Bennett were passengers in a sport utility vehicle driven by Vance. At some point, Banks was ordered out of the vehicle, chased, and eventually shot by Bennett. Vance and Bennett then sped away, according to the documents.

Banks later died at the hospital. An autopsy revealed two gunshot wounds to the back of his head and one gunshot wound to each arm. A total of six shell-casings were found along Galloway Street Northeast where Banks was found.

McDaniel, though, maintains that all of the physical evidence at the scene relates back to Vance, which includes a water bottle containing Vance’s DNA and a broken light cover from a vehicle owned by Vance’s girlfriend, according to documents in the case.

Vance pled guilty to being an accessory after the fact in April 2012, and was sentenced to three years in prison. He was given credit for time served and released.

A trial readiness conference is scheduled for July 19.

Plea documents and the motion to withdraw have been added to this post.

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