On August 16, 2023, Michael Cummins, who was facing the death penalty for the 2019 killings of eight individuals in rural Tennessee, pled guilty to all eight counts of first-degree murder in exchange for life in prison without parole. Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley told the press that he had reversed his decision to seek a death sentence and agreed to the plea based on new evidence regarding Mr. Cummins’ mental health. That evidence included Mr. Cummins’ brain scans, which showed “significant problems” and impairment of brain activity. DA Whitley told the press that his decision was also related to the length of death penalty proceedings. “We wanted to bring finality to the case because if he had have gotten the death penalty, this case would have gone on for years and years and gone from court to court,” said DA Whitley. 

In addition to the eight consecutive life sentences Mr. Cummins faces for the murder of his parents, uncle and five others, he was sentenced to an additional ten years for the attempted murder of his grandmother, who survived her attack. Mr. Cummins was originally set for trial in April 2023 when the new evidence brought a halt to the proceedings. The plea bargain announced at the sentencing hearing on August 16th was agreed to be the families of the victims, who had an opportunity to express the pain they have felt since the loss of their loved ones. Steven McGlothlin, the brother, and uncle of two of the victims, told the court that “it’s one thing to lose someone in a natural occurrence, but it’s something totally different to deal with something as heinous as this.” Speaking directly to Mr. Cummins, Mr. McGlothlin told the court that he “hope[s] God forgives [him]… because he is the only one.” 

DA Whitley is hopeful that the sentencing of Mr. Cummins might help the victims’ family members to move forward in their healing processes without having to worry about attending additional court dates and hearings. “Closure is an overused word because they’ll never get closure when they’re losing their loved ones, but it’ll bring finality to this guy.” Mr. Cummins, who has a lengthy criminal record and history of violence, has a documented history of mental health issues. The presiding judge, Honorable Dee David Gay, is also hopeful that the guilty pleas will help bring closure to the families. “Mr. Cummins will never see life outside of Tennessee State Penitentiary… you can rest easy with that.”