TROY, N.Y. – Trinity Copeland, the Troy teen found guilty in the shooting death of her father, was sentenced Thursday at the Rensselaer County Courthouse.
Emotions were running high during the teenager's sentencing. Tears were running down Trinity's face as she addressed the courtroom this morning. She apologized to her family, but she says she had no other choice the night she pulled the trigger.
"At the end of the day everyone loses because my father is gone and I'm going away for a long time. And I have my brother, mother and sister who are on my side who are going to lose me too,” she said.
A Rensselaer County Court judge sentenced Trinity Copeland to a minimum of 25 years to life for shooting and killing her father Harlan Copeland back in 2012.
"I didn't get any sense at all even here today that she accepts responsibility for what happened,” said Judge Andrew Ceresia.
Trinity's aunt was in the courtroom this morning -- even interjecting as Trinity was speaking, asking what about her brother Harlan?
"How she could do this is beyond me. I just really I honestly don't believe her story... Harlan would never do that. He helps people,” said Phelicia Copeland.
But, Trinity's brother paints a different picture of his father.
“Harlan Copeland, brother I remember times we used to have to hide under my bed and my sisters and I would cry at night. And I don't really know how my dad's side of the family got amnesia from things and how this couldn't this of what could possibly happen,” he said.
Her brother Harlan says his sister is an innocent victim and they plan on appealing the judge's sentencing.
She was found guilty in April on a second degree murder charge.
Copeland testified that she shot her father, Harlan, in 2012 out of fear for her own life. He was found with one gunshot wound to the head. A firearm, believed to be the weapon involved, was recovered at scene.
However, prosecutors argue that Copeland killed her father in cold blood; after he found out she had stolen his debit card. Prosecution also states that the woman purchased $150 worth of items on the debit card. Authorities say the bank had just alerted Harlan when they had their altercation.
The defense did not deny that Copeland, then 17-years old, pulled the trigger, but they continue to say that it was out of self-defense. Copeland’s attorney said the evidence will show Harlan had a drinking problem and that he was drunk that morning and Trinity was in danger. She said she confessed to her father about taking his debit card. In response, she said her father went into his room and got a gun. She claims he was drunk at the time of the confrontation and he pointed the gun to her head. On the stand, she said her father was an alcoholic.
Copeland recalled that her father said he was going to kill her then himself because he wasn't going to go to prison. She told the jury she tried pleading with her dad, which is when he allegedly suggested Trinity kill him or he would kill them both.
The prosecution, however, told the jury that Copeland initially told a neighbor and police that someone broke into the apartment and shot her father. They say Copeland showed no emotion and later changed her story. The prosecution also said Trinity laughed during the interview with detectives, and that she called her father a jerk to detectives just four hours after shooting.
Copeland did not deny the jerk references. On the stand, she said she shot her father because she feared for her own life and felt she had no choice. She added that she wasn't thinking clearly, she was thinking she was going to die. She said she knew her father was going to kill her.
During cross-examination, prosecutors went through different options Trinity could have taken instead of killing her father, like trying to escape when she had the chance, or call 911, or even shoot her father somewhere other than his head. Trinity says she didn't think of that at the time.
The defense told the jury that Copeland had no choice, and reminded them that there are times when someone may need to use force to protect themselves.
Copeland spent about 10 months behind bars after she admitted to the shooting, but she was released from the Rensselaer County Jail in May 2013, when the original murder indictment against her was dropped. Rensselaer County District Attorney Richard McNally said the court found prosecutors failed to properly instruct grand jury.
In September of 2013 she was re-arraigned on charges of second-degree Murder and first-degree Manslaughter, to which she plead not guilty.
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