Atlanta family shocked over lighter sentence of woman charged in murder

An Atlanta family is devastated after a woman once charged with the murder of their loved one pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and is now walking free.

Atlanta police arrested LaQuitta Palmer and her brother, suspected shooter Tobias Palmer, for the murder and armed robbery of Derrick Dawson. The father of 12 had been playing the slot machines in the gas station and was known to carry money.

According to Dawson's family, LaQuitta Palmer told detectives she and her brother Tobias were looking for money when she spotted Dawson outside the Citgo on Fairburn Road.  Dawson was shot and killed, but prosecutors say LaQuitta never got out of the car. Prosecutors concede she helped her brother get back in the car and speed away.

Officials say LaQuitta Palmer agreed to testify against her brother during his trial.

RELATED: Murder victim's family speaks out after gas station robbery, murder

The family points to a judge's comments during Palmer's preliminary hearing.

"The judge says party to the crime is all parties involved. You did not get out and say my brother just killed somebody. You did not try to go find help," Dawson's niece Denetra Stroud recalled.

Dawson"s family says they have tried for six months to reach Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, but they say he would not call back.  

The victim's family says they were shocked when they found out one of the suspects was out of jail and posting on social media.

The family says it finally got a call from Howard's office once FOX 5 started making calls Tuesday. The DA's office told Aungelique Proctor that LaQuitta Palmer has agreed to testify against her brother during his murder trial. 

RELATED: Police: Man wanted for deadly Atlanta gas station shooting

The DA"s office also said it recommended five years in prison, but a judge sentenced LaQuitta Palmer to five year's probation. The DA's office disagreed with the sentence.

Tobias Palmer is still facing murder charges. 

The full statement from the Fulton County District Attorney is below.

The evidence, in this case, is irrefutable. On May 13, 2019, Tobias Palmer emerged from a vehicle and approached the victim, Derrick Dawson, who was standing in the parking lot of a gas station along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SW in Atlanta. Tobias Palmer attempted to rob Dawson at gunpoint before firing two shots that ultimately ended the victim’s life. Tobias Palmer then rummaged through Dawson’s pockets. It was unquestionably a senseless and brutal crime. After the murder occurred, Tobias Palmer returned to his vehicle. His sister, Laquitta Palmer, was in the passenger seat. When he returned to the car, Laquitta Palmer opened the driver’s side door, and they fled the scene. After a lengthy investigation by the Atlanta Police Department and a subsequent examination by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, there was no evidence discovered to show that Laquitta Palmer was responsible for carrying out the Armed Robbery and Murder. Laquitta Palmer was culpable of opening the driver’s side door which allowed her brother, Tobias Palmer, to flee the scene, hence the indictment for Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal. When Laquitta Palmer was apprehended, she immediately identified her brother as the shooter and armed robber, and in court, under oath, Laquitta Palmer indicated that she will testify against her brother during his Murder trial. 

It is important to note that during Laquitta Palmer’s plea, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office recommended a sentence of (5) five years to serve for the offense of Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal. But, as often is the case in Fulton County, Superior Court Judges accept non-negotiated pleas that do not take into account the recommendation of the State. In this case, the Judge sentenced Laquitta Palmer to (5) five years of probation under Georgia’s First Offender Act. The State disagrees with the sentence based upon Laquitta’s provable actions and involvement in the crime. 

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office previously discussed Laquitta Palmer’s charging decision with Dawson’s family, and we were very much aware of their displeasure with our inability to charge Laquitta Palmer with Murder. However, the State is required by law to only charge a defendant with the appropriate offense based upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

The evidence, in this case, is irrefutable. On May 13, 2019, Tobias Palmer emerged from a vehicle and approached the victim, Derrick Dawson, who was standing in the parking lot of a gas station along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SW in Atlanta. Tobias Palmer attempted to rob Dawson at gunpoint before firing two shots that ultimately ended the victim’s life. Tobias Palmer then rummaged through Dawson’s pockets. It was unquestionably a senseless and brutal crime. After the murder occurred, Tobias Palmer returned to his vehicle. His sister, Laquitta Palmer, was in the passenger seat. When he returned to the car, Laquitta Palmer opened the driver’s side door, and they fled the scene. After a lengthy investigation by the Atlanta Police Department and a subsequent examination by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, there was no evidence discovered to show that Laquitta Palmer was responsible for carrying out the Armed Robbery and Murder. Laquitta Palmer was culpable of opening the driver’s side door which allowed her brother, Tobias Palmer, to flee the scene, hence the indictment for Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal. When Laquitta Palmer was apprehended, she immediately identified her brother as the shooter and armed robber, and in court, under oath, Laquitta Palmer indicated that she will testify against her brother during his Murder trial. 
It is important to note that during Laquitta Palmer’s plea, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office recommended a sentence of (5) five years to serve for the offense of Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal. But, as often is the case in Fulton County, Superior Court Judges accept non-negotiated pleas that do not take into account the recommendation of the State. In this case, the Judge sentenced Laquitta Palmer to (5) five years of probation under Georgia’s First Offender Act. The State disagrees with the sentence based upon Laquitta’s provable actions and involvement in the crime. 
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office previously discussed Laquitta Palmer’s charging decision with Dawson’s family, and we were very much aware of their displeasure with our inability to charge Laquitta Palmer with Murder. However, the State is required by law to only charge a defendant with the appropriate offense based upon the facts and circumstances of the case.