JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Emotion spilled over those in court on Thursday after Antonio Simmons, the man convicted in a 2007 murder, was sentenced to life in prison.
Before his punishment was handed down, Simmons begged the judge for the minimum sentence of 25 years for the second-degree murder of 21-year-old James Brigham, saying that he shot Brigham, his girlfriend's estranged husband, in self-defense.
"I would never harm a person or want to harm a person if my life had not been on the line that day," Simmons said in court.
However, that was not the story Simmons initially told police. After his arrest in November 2007, Simmons said robbers shot Brigham during a dice game.
"I admit that I lied. I'm sorry that his family had to find out later through trial, but I'm not a violent person. I wouldn't harm no person at all but my life was in danger that day," Simmons said.
A jury disagreed with Simmons a month ago, finding him guilty of second-degree murder. On Thursday, a judge again disagreed with Simmons and sentenced the killer to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The life sentence is what Brigham's family said it wanted.
"He had a lot of goals and ambitions that he wanted to achieve in life and unfortunately it was cut short, and today we did get some justice. The system does work," said Brigham's father, Henry Brigham. "It's not full closure, but this is a place to start. It's a place we can start."
However, a start for one family marked the end of hope for another family.
"Get that camera out of my face. Get it out my face," Simmons' mother shouted outside the courtroom.
The defendant's family was escorted out of the courthouse by security guards.
Channel 4 learned that Simmons plans to appeal both his sentence and his conviction.