John Michael Hays sentenced to 99 years in prison

by Michael Stafford
NewsWest 9

A Big Spring man found guilty Friday of first degree murder is headed to prison for quite a long time.

John Michael Hays gets a 99 year prison sentence for the January murder of Roland Dickinson.

Newswest 9 had the only cameras rolling as the week long trial came to an end.

It was an emotional evening for family members of John Michael Hays.  Some of them were angry, while others tried to hold back the tears.  It took jurors about an hour during Friday's punishment phase to reach the stiff sentence, and send a strong message.

District Attorney Hardy Wilkerson says Hays deserved every bit of his punishment for the 'cold and calculated' murder of Roland Dickinson, whose badly beaten body was dumped in a ravine near Coahoma last January.

"I think we effectively put the responsibility on the jury to say there has been a prison gang murder in Howard County and what are you going to do about it?" Wilkerson adds, "The evidence effectively indicated that he had at least a good week to think about what he was going to do the next time he saw the Defendant Roland Dickinson, and that makes all the difference.  He has to know at 52 that when he gets that 300 pounds moving and he hits someone that small, devastating results are going to take place.  And that's before we get to the kicking and stomping, and the cruel inhumane beating that Roland Dickinson took." 

Defense Attorney Robert Miller failed to show jurors that his client acted out of passion when committing the murder which would've reduced the sentence to a maximum of 20 years.

Miller told me the sentence was way too harsh.

Miller says, "I'm disappointed and I'm surprised.  You do all you can.  Oh yea, he needed to go to prison.  You don't kill someone and not go to prison, but 99 years?  I compare that to the worst.  That's just one step below capital murder."

Behind closed doors right after the judge read the sentence, Hays bowed his head in disbelief, and put his hands over his face.  The judge allowed the mother of the victim to address Hays before adjourning the court.  She told Hays quote, "My wounds will remain open for the rest of my life.  I'm sorry for my family and your family, but the sentence was fair.  I'll never see my son again."