Last Kirkland Shooting Defendant Sentenced To 9 to 12 Years

Blayn Jiggetts, one of three men found guilty of the murder that took place in a Harvard dormitory two years ago, was sentenced to 9 to 12 years in prison.

Jiggetts and his co-defendant Jason F. Aquino were each charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in exchange for lighter sentences.

The third defendant, Jabrai Jordan Copney, pleaded not guilty and stood trial last spring. Convicted in April, Copney received life in prison without parole, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder convictions.

The three men were charged in the killing of Justin Cosby, a 21-year-old Cambridge resident who was shot in the basement of a Kirkland House entryway in 2009. According to prosecutors, the three defendants—all residents of New York City—intended to rob Cosby of a large quantity of marijuana at gunpoint. When Cosby refused to hand over the drugs, one of the men, allegedly Copney, shot and killed him.

Both Jiggetts and Aquino initially pleaded not guilty but then made deals to avoid a trial and reduce their time in prison. Jiggetts was offered a guarantee of 9 to 12 years’ incarceration in exchange for cooperating as a witness in Copney’s trial. He testified that Copney was the one who planned the armed robbery and fired the murder weapon.

Throughout the trial, Copney’s attorney argued that Jiggetts was actually the one who shot Cosby.

The jury found Copney guilty of felony murder, meaning that a death resulted from the defendant’s attempt to commit a crime which is itself punishable by up to life in prison. In this case, that crime was armed robbery, an offense in which all three men were complicit—meaning that regardless of who pulled the trigger, all three could have been convicted of first-degree murder and thus would have faced life in prison if they had stood trial.

Aquino, who pleaded guilty but did not serve as a witness in Copney’s trial, was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison.

As of Jiggetts’ sentencing hearing in October, he had already served 862 days of his sentence. He was arrested in New York City in June 2009, less than a month after the shooting, and has been held without bail since then.

The final person charged in the case was Brittany J. Smith, who was a senior at Harvard at the time of the murder. Copney, her boyfriend, had been living with her in her Lowell House room. Smith and her friend Chanequa N. Campbell, also a Harvard senior at the time, were dismissed from the College just two weeks before graduating due to their connection with the homicide.

Campbell was granted a non-prosecution agreement for her cooperation and appeared on the witness stand during Copney’s trial. Smith initially made a similar agreement but then breached it by lying to prosecutors in order to protect Copney.

Smith was then indicted on charges that she hid the murder weapon after the shooting, helped the three men flee to New York, and repeatedly misled to investigators. She pleaded guilty to five of the six counts against her in September and received a three-year prison sentence.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at jzauzmer@college.harvard.edu.

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