Once Marvin Cannon goes to jail, it is likely he will never see the light of day as a free man. On Nov. 15, Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom handed down the death penalty for Cannon’s involvement in the Christmas Eve 2010 first-degree murder of Zachariah Morgan of Jackson County.
Cannon, 33, was found guilty by a 12-member jury in October of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder of Morgan’s friend, Sean Neel, armed robbery with a deadly weapon, attempted armed robbery and arson of a conveyance.
He was sentenced to death for Morgan’s murder, life in prison for Neel’s attempted murder, 30 years for armed robbery with a deadly weapon, 30 years for arson of a conveyance and 15 years for attempted armed robbery.
When his sentence was read, he showed no outward signs of emotion.
“I was thankful; we were all hoping for the death penalty. My father was a proponent of the death penalty. I also want to thank the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office for the hard work they did in bringing this case to trial and the state prosecutor’s office. It is a sense of relief. We can finally start to move ahead. It’s been a long two years; this sentence has been a long time coming, but we got our prayers answered,” said Morgan’s daughter, Aliesha.
“This is vindication, and I’m glad the judge saw it our way,” said Morgan’s wife, Lena.
Nehemiah Morgan, the youngest brother, said he, too, was pleased the death penalty was handed down.
“I am relieved with the verdict. The punishment fits the crime. This case was cut-and-dried, and he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t hold anything against his (Cannon’s) family, but there is no rehabilitation for this person. Maybe this will send a message to others,” he said.
What bothers the younger Morgan is the amount of time Cannon will spend in jail. He said Florida needs to take a look at the way murderers are treated, and justice should be swifter. He is troubled that Cannon can appeal the sentence in 30 days at taxpayer’s expense and will be eligible to come before the parole board every five years.
“Nothing will bring my brother back; it’s (his murder) changed all of our lives forever, especially with the holidays coming up. We will have to learn to live (without him); we will do everything to keep his legacy alive,” he said.
A painter by trade, the family has established a scholarship in Morgan’s name for a deserving student to attend a vocational or technical school.
Morgan and Neel, co-workers and friends, came to Gadsden County on Christmas Eve 2010 to pick up corn for deer feed that had been purchased weeks earlier from Cannon. Before the night was over, Morgan had been stabbed more than 35 times and Neel, who barely escaped, was stabbed twice in the neck.
Cannon and another man, Antoine McMillan, were in the back seat of Morgan’s pickup truck following Cannon’s directions to a rural area west of Quincy where the corn was supposedly stored.
But there was no corn.
The men were attacked while still in the truck, and Morgan died from his injuries at the scene. His truck was torched, the prosecutor said, in an attempt to conceal the crime. Cannon was arrested two days later in Quincy in a motel.
McMillan has been confined to Florida State Hospital and is incapable of standing trial due to mental illness.