'The closure is not there'; Cannon Hinnant's mother reflects on outcome of young son's murder case

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Saturday, December 31, 2022
'Closure is not there'; Cannon Hinnant's mom reflects on murder case
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Since Cannon's death, his family has fought for Darius Sessoms to be sentenced to death. Sessoms avoided that by entering an Alford plea and received life in prison instead.

WILSON, N.C. (WTVD) -- When Bonny Parker walked out of the courtroom on Thursday, she left without closure for the death of her 5-year-old son Cannon Hinnant.

"I walked out that courtroom and I will still wonder why every single day," Parker said. "Why my baby? Why my child?"

Cannon was shot and killed in the yard of the family's Wilson County home in August 2020.

This Thursday, Darius Sessoms pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the option of parole.

Since Cannon's death, his family has fought for Sessoms to be sentenced to death. Sessoms was able to avoid that as an option by entering an Alford plea. It's a common option that has been legal in North Carolina since the 1960s.

"Basically what it says is that the defendant in a case can enter a guilty plea, but does not have to admit the underlying facts as to the crime," explained NCCU law professor Irving Joyner. "A person might not want to admit the actual facts of the case but because of the weight of the evidence against them, make the decision that they need to enter a guilty plea because it's in their best interest."

Although in this case, the plea enabled Sessoms to avoid the death penalty, Joyner said the plea is usually beneficial both for the state and victims.

"In many instances, you obviously avoid a trial, which is an incentive for the state to accept the plea because they don't have to go through the rigors of a trial and run the risk of losing the case no matter how strong they think the case is," Joyner said.

He also said the Alford plea allows the state to also save time and money. For the victims, it minimizes the emotional toil of a trial.

"A full-blown trial is very stressful, particularly when you're dealing with murder," Joyner said. "And the murder of a child is something that is heart-wrenching for everyone."

In Cannon's case, his 9- and 10-year-old sisters would likely have to testify at the trial.

WATCH | 'He meant the world to me': Cannon's stepfather honors life of Cannon Hinnant.

"It would have been very traumatizing again for them, it's not something a child should have to go through. They've already gone through enough," Parker said.

Both girls were in the front yard and witnessed their brother's death. Parker said she is still upset she never got a reason why from Sessoms or an apology but is OK with the outcome because it means protecting her daughters.

"The closure is not there. I'll still wonder why every day so it will bring me peace knowing my girls will not have to suffer. They never have to see him. It brings me peace knowing that," she said.

Parker said she doesn't believe she would have gotten answers through a trial either. While she will carry the loss of her son with her always, she hopes closing the court case will bring brighter days.

"Knowing that this is Dec. 30 and Jan. 1, the New Year, we will be able to grieve and keep Cannon's memory alive and be at peace knowing we don't have to walk in that courtroom again," Parker said.

She said the family plans to continue to hold vigils and a ballfield will open in Cannon's name in Wilson County soon. The family is also working to enact a law that would help families of young victims avoid having to go through a trial process to have the death penalty as a sentencing option.