James Cooper (L) and James Kouzaris (R) were both found with money on them
4:23am UK, Friday March 23, 2012
Two British men allegedly shot dead by a teenager in Florida begged to be let go and return home, a court has heard.
James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, were found shirtless and with their trousers round their thighs after being shot several times in a rundown area of Sarasota last April.
Shawn Tyson’s DNA was found on Mr Cooper, the court was told
The pair, who were holidaying with Mr Cooper’s family, had been at a nightclub in central Sarasota, but left at around 2am and drunkenly walked into the public housing project.
Shawn Tyson, 17, denies two counts of first-degree murder and, if convicted, faces life in jail without parole.
Opening the prosecution case at his trial in Sarasota, prosecutor Ed Brodsky said the case was “about two different sets of boys, men, who seized opportunities”.
He said witnesses described seeing Tyson frequently carrying a revolver wrapped in a red bandana and that one saw him jump into the window of his home shortly after the shooting.
Another witness said the teenager boasted about shooting the Britons after trying to rob them, the prosecutor said.
Mr Brodsky said Tyson told the witness: “When Shawn Tyson… confronts the victims, they plead with Shawn Tyson to let them go, that they were drunk and that they were just trying to find their way home.
You will hear about several witnesses and you are going to hear a lot, you will hear about their deals, their benefits, what they got from this case, promises made to them.
Carolyn Schlemmer, Shawn Tyson’s public defender
“They then tell Shawn Tyson that they don’t have any money to give him.”
He said Tyson boasted that he said: “Well, since you ain’t got no money then I have something for your ass!”, and opened fire.
Tyson allegedly hid the gun at friend Marvin Gaines’ house, and gave him the bullet casings to bury in the garden.
Police investigators later found seven 0.22 calibre casings buried in a nearby yard, and a search of Tyson’s bedroom on the evening after the shootings found a 0.22 calibre bullet.
Post-mortem examinations showed that Mr Cooper was shot four times while Mr Kouzaris was shot twice in the back.
The scene in Sarasota where the men were found murdered
Mr Brodsky also said Tyson’s DNA was found on Mr Cooper’s jeans. Witness Trevor Clyburn, who was staying with a friend, saw the men drunkenly “staggering” down the street, and two figures standing in the darkness watching them. Moments later, he heard gunshots.
The gun used to shoot Mr Cooper, from Hampton Lucy, near Warwick, and his friend Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, has not been found.
Tyson’s public defender, Carolyn Schlemmer, said the teenager did not commit the murders.
“You will hear about several witnesses and you are going to hear a lot, you will hear about their deals, their benefits, what they got from this case, promises made to them,” she said.
“You will hear pressures and threats used against these witnesses by the Sarasota Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office.”
Mr Cooper still had his wallet, money, mobile phone and camera, while his friend also had his wallet and money, the court heard. The case continues.