29/03/2012

Teen Given Two Life Sentences For Murder Of British Tourists In Florida

An American teenager has been given a life sentence for the murder of two British tourists while in Florida.

25-year-old James Cooper and 24-year-old James Kouzaris, friends from university in Sheffield, were shot and killed in Sarasota, Florida, after drunkenly wandering into the Newtown area in the early hours of 16 April 2011.

The court heard Shawn Tyson, 17, had killed them after trying to rob them.

It also emerged that hours before the murders, Tyson had been released after his arrest following a shooting on 7 April.

Tyson, who was tried as an adult at Sarasota County Court despite having been 16 at the time of the murders, was given two life sentences without the eligibility of parole.

Before sentencing impact statements were read out by friends of the two men.

"Every night you go to sleep, every morning you wake up, I want you to think of my friends who you murdered," Joe Hallett told the court.

"I hope that you and your family suffer every single second of every single day, just as the loved ones of James Kouzaris and James Cooper do.

"For every painful detail of their deaths I have endured, for each disturbing photo I have been exposed to, I am still glad I have this opportunity to look into your eyes and try to explain the pain that you have caused."

Paul Davies called Tyson "a coward" and said: "You might think being a man is about carrying a gun around but it isn't. Wearing a mask and shooting two guys in cold blood is being a coward."

He continued: "For the past week I've had to sit in this courtroom and watch photos of my two best friends lying on the ground, riddled with bullet holes.

"I've had to listen to how you stalked them, made them beg for their lives and then unload a gun on them.

"I've had to listen to all that knowing that they would never in a million years have threatened you or tried to hurt you.

"They wouldn't hurt anyone because, like I say, they were good men, the most amazing men you could have ever met. Maybe if you were more of a man that night you would have known them long enough to find that out for yourself."

The families of the two British men were not in the court but said in a statement there were happy with the verdict, despite criticising the court system that had earlier released Tyson after a judge had warned the teenager was a danger to the public.

The families statement said: "The evil of the killer is one thing, but the fact is, he would not have been on the streets had instructions to keep him incarcerated been passed from one judge to another."

The court heard Tyson had boasted to his friend Latrece Washington, who testified against him, that one of the men had begged for his life but he shot him anyway.

He also told another friend, Marvin Gaines, he had killed the men.

Mr Gaines said Tyson gave him seven 0.22 calibre shell casings to bury in his backyard, as well as a gun.

However Gaines later gave the gun to friend Jermaine Bane, who sold it for $50.

After he was threatened with a charge of accessory to murder, Mr Gaines led police to where the casings were buried. The murder weapon has never been found.


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