King brothers guilty of killing their father
PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- The forewoman of the Florida jury that found two teenage brothers guilty of murdering their father said she was surprised that another jury acquitted the family friend the boys claimed committed the crime.
Alex King, 13, and his brother Derek, 14, were convicted Friday of second-degree murder "without a weapon" in the baseball-bat beating death of their father, Terry King, 40. They were also convicted of arson.
About two hours later, a verdict was announced that King family acquaintance Ricky Chavis was not guilty of the same charges. A separate jury reached that verdict a week earlier, but it remained sealed until the King brothers' verdict was announced.
Prosecutors had charged the boys and Chavis with first-degree murder, which would have carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
The King brothers may now be sentenced to up to life in prison with the possibility of parole on the murder charge. The maximum penalty for arson is 30 years in prison.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 17.
Juror believes Chavis was killer
Lynn Schwarz, the forewoman in the boys' trial, said she believed that Chavis beat King to death and that the brothers "were there, but as a principal" -- not as the killers.
"We felt as a jury that the investigation didn't go far enough, that the boys were interviewed and then they decided the case was over," Schwarz said.
Schwarz said Friday's decision to convict the boys -- for second-degree murder and arson -- was a difficult one to reach.
"I think justice was done as far as we were concerned," she said. "I feel bad for them. It broke my heart."
Alex and Derek originally confessed to beating their father to death and setting fire to their home, but four months later retracted their confessions and implicated Chavis, saying the 40-year-old family friend had persuaded them to take the blame.
Schwarz, who said "there is nothing worse than a child molester," said she did not believe justice was done in the Chavis case.
"The facts, the way we construed them, didn't turn out that way," she said. "I feel that (the brothers) were there when (Chavis) was doing it. Murder in itself, you can get caught up in that violence."
"I'm sure (Chavis) would have been convicted if it were our jury."
Prosecutor David Rimmer said Saturday that he believed Derek killed his father, and that Chavis and Alex were accessories.
"I believe [Chavis] was a principal, just like Alex," Rimmer said. "I think he was the one that motivated the boys, he encouraged them, maybe even planted the idea in their mind. I certainly think he had something to do with it."
While Rimmer said he respects the jurors' position, "I don't believe it happened that way. ... I just really don't believe that Chavis was there."
Rimmer said he would have liked to have argued that Chavis "basically had [the boys] do his dirty work."
Last week, a jury heard the Chavis case, including Alex's testimony that he had an intense emotional and sexual relationship with Chavis -- and rendered a verdict, which was sealed until the King verdict was read.
Rimmer later confirmed that the judge had informed the attorneys in both cases, though not Chavis, of the acquittal before the boys' trial began, ordering them not to disclose the information.
Chavis, who was convicted of molesting a minor in the 1980s, remains in jail awaiting trial on charges of lewd and lascivious acts upon Alex -- a child under 16. The crime is a second-degree felony punishable by 15 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
He also is charged with accessory after the fact and tampering with evidence related to King's killing.
Verdict no surprise to grandfather
Wilbur King, the boys' paternal grandfather, said he wasn't surprised by the verdict and that he believed "they were capable" of committing the crime.
"I had a feeling my grandsons had a part in my son's murder. I don't hate them. I love them. But I had a gut feeling that they did have a part in it," he told CNN.
He said the two brothers showed no emotion throughout the proceedings, especially Alex.
"When Alex was on the stand describing how his father was killed, there was no emotion, no sobs, no regret. The only time I saw him weep or cry was this afternoon," the grandfather said.
The jury returned its verdict against the King brothers after about three hours of deliberations.
Just before the verdict was read, both boys -- wearing button-down shirts and ties, their hair neatly cropped -- chatted with each other and talked with their attorneys.
The young men stood at separate tables as the verdict was announced. Derek showed little emotion, looking straight ahead, glancing down occasionally. Alex stiffened as a worrisome look spread across his face. Derek glanced only once at his younger brother.
The two sat down, with Derek placing his right hand on his face as he rocked nervously back and forth in his chair. Their mother, who was divorced from the boys' father, wept, as did many in the courtroom.
When the two boys were led out of the courtroom, both were crying and shaking their heads.
During the boys' trial, the jurors heard testimony from Alex, and confessions to police from both boys.
"I made sure he was asleep. I got the bat, and I hit him over the head," Derek said in his police confession. "I hit him once and I heard him moan. I was afraid that he might wake up and see us, so I just kept on hitting him -- somewhere around 10 times."
Alex had told jurors that Chavis had coached his brother and him for nearly two days as to what to tell authorities, and that Chavis said he killed their father to "protect" them.
During closing arguments, defense attorneys sought to poke holes in the prosecution's case, pointing out that in Derek's confession he said he struck his dad 10 times in the head, but the medical examiner said the father suffered three blows to the head.
There was no forensic evidence linking the boys to the crime for a reason, the defense said.
"It's the predator, it's the pedophile," said James Stokes, an attorney for Alex. "We know he's a liar, we know he's a thief -- he stole those boys from his father."
Sharon Potter, an attorney for Derek, told jurors they should discount the confession tapes because of numerous inconsistencies and because the two had been coached by Chavis what to tell authorities.
"Without these boys' statements, the police had no evidence against them at all, and Ricky Chavis knew that too," she said. "So why take them in to confess? Because then Ricky Chavis gets away with murder."
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