A 33-year-old woman was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison on October 2 after pleading guilty for manslaughter.
Defendant Jessica Burris fired a gun ten times, fatally hitting victim Michelle Tate six times in Phoenix on Dec. 2, 2021, according to court records. Burris said she did not mean to shoot Tate and thought only one shot hit Tate.
Several witnesses identified Burris in a photo lineup and Phoenix police put her name in the media in an attempt to locate her, which caused Burris to turn herself in on Feb. 18, 2022.
Burris did not have a statement after Maricopa County Judge Margaret LaBianca sentenced her.
“I find the nine and a half years appropriate,” LaBianca said.
LaBianca said the state took into account Burris’ mental health issues, substance abuse and lack of criminal history.
She was diagnosed with depression and ADHD and was without treatment for the year prior to her arrest. She had minimal emotional and financial support. However, LaBianca said the court also recognized she took a life.
“She took a life which has a lasting effect that will never go away,” LaBianca said.
Burris stopped attending high school during her senior year. She said she has a desire to further her education and gain employment in medical billing and coding or auto mechanics.
Her mother and stepfather died, but she maintains a supportive relationship with her sisters and her three children.
LaBianca, upon reading Burris’ memo, said she noticed Burris has plans for the future and has people who care about her. LaBianca said to keep those in her sight through the future.
“I wish you well,” said LaBianca.
Additionally, Arizona prosecutor Emily Hovater said the state took into account all the facts and Burris' childhood history. Hovater recommended ten years in prison.
Burris has four sisters and one brother who died. Two of her sisters have criminal records and one is incarcerated. Her mother had a drug problem and she herself started using methamphetamine daily at the age of 23.
Burris' mother, stepfather and grandparents raised her. She witnessed and was a victim to domestic violence and sexual abuse by her great uncle.
Burris told the police she shot the gun in the air because people were fighting with Tate and Burris was trying to get them to flee. Burris also said Tate came after her with a butcher knife and fired the gun in the air to stop her.
“I did recognize the facts,” Hovater said. “However she did take a life.”
Burris’s Attorney, Alane Ortega, said that she recognized the plea was in favor of her client because of her lack of criminal history. Burris' father died while she was in custody and Burris cried at the end of the sentencing.
“She was unable to attend the funeral because she was in custody,” Ortega said. “She is remorseful.”