Damon Jolly will serve a life sentence -- with the possibility of parole -- for killing a Bibb County sheriff's deputy six years ago.
His guilty plea to murder Tuesday afternoon also means that he will not face trial -- and a possible death sentence -- if a jury had convicted him.
Jolly was charged with deputy Joseph Whiteheads shooting death during a drug raid at a house off Mercer University Drive early on the morning of March 23, 2006. Whitehead and a dozen other officers were serving a no-knock warrant at the time.
Before his sentence, Jolly choked up while reading a statement in court before Judge Tillman E. Tripp Self. He apologized to Whitehead's family, occasionally dabbing his eyes with a tissue.
I am truly, truly sorry for yalls loss, ... for all the pain and suffering and hurt, Jolly said, breaking down and weeping.
He also apologized to Whiteheads widow for having to raise their children as a single mother.
Can you find it in your heart to forgive me? he asked.
To his friends and family -- and late mother, he said, "I'm sorry."
He added, "It was nothing you did or didn't do. It's unexplainable."
The fatal confrontation, he said, "was not intentional. ... I was in fear of losing my own life."
Jolly said that he respects police and that had he known it was officers coming into the house, he wouldn't have shot.
After Jolly's statement, Marshall Hughes addressed Jolly.
"You still have life," he told Jolly. "You not facing the death penalty is another cowardly act."
Whitehead's family members then took turns talking about Whitehead and describing the hardships that his death had wrought.
The 36-year-old Whitehead, the father of three, kicked in the front door and was the first officer to enter the house. As he and others yelled sheriffs department, search warrant and headed toward a back room, shots rang out, and Whitehead was hit. None of the deputies fired shots.
Whitehead was shot in the head and four times in his hands and wrists. Members of the raid team tried to resuscitate him while calling for help.
Another defendant in the case, 28-year-old Antron Fair, pleaded guilty to murder earlier this year and received a life sentence [--] with the possibility of parole. During Fairs plea session, prosecutors said that the shot that killed Whitehead inside the Atherton Street house was fired from Jollys gun.
Tuesdays plea means that a trial for Jolly scheduled to begin in Savannah later this month will not be held. Fair was scheduled to testify for the state during a trial.