Sarasota man appeals conviction of murdering 2 tourists - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Sarasota man appeals conviction of murdering 2 tourists

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Shawn Tyson Shawn Tyson
British tourists murdered, James Cooper and James Kouzaris British tourists murdered, James Cooper and James Kouzaris
SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) -

It's a story out of Sarasota that garnered international attention. A man convicted of murdering two British tourists in 2011 is now appealing his punishment.

In April 2011, British tourists James Cooper and James Kouzaris were drinking in downtown Sarasota. Very early in the morning, they wandered into the Newtown neighborhood and were gunned down. 16-year-old Shawn Tyson was the prime suspect. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

(Related content: Sarasota tourist shootings make headlines in British tabloids)

But, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that a sentence like that is unconstitutional for a minor. So, Tyson will have to be re-sentenced.

However, in District Court on Wednesday Tyson’s defense attorney asked for more. "We ask you to vacate his conviction and remand this case back for a new trial," said Tyson's defense attorney Terrence Kehoe.

“Under the law, Mr. Tyson was entitled to a fair trial, we contend that he did not receive one,” Kehoe told a panel of three judges.

Kehoe argued that during Tyson's criminal trial, the jurors were given incorrect instructions for coming up with a verdict. He recalled the jurors did not need to come to a unanimous verdict. Instead half could agree on premeditated murder, while the other half could agree on felony murder.

“He’s entitled to a new trial on this issue alone,” said Kehoe.

Kehoe also argued that improper evidence was presented in the trial that unfairly prejudiced the jury against his client.

What the state is trying to do is bring in all this other stuff to try and prove a weak case on the two murders on April the 16th,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Cerese Taylor disagreed. She said the proper instructions were given to the jury.

“The evidence of the alternative methods of committing this crime was relevant and material to what the jury had to consider in deciding the issue of the appellant’s guilt," she said.

Taylor also said the evidence presented in court provided a clear picture of the criminal activity Tyson was involved in.

"This is not an attempt to unfairly prosecute an individual for crimes that he did not commit. This is a case that was developed over time and each of those links on that chain establish Mr. Tyson's guilt," said Taylor.

The matter is now in the judges’ hands. At least two judges will have to be in agreement to change the original ruling.

The judges are expected to release their decision sometime over the next ten days.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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