Xavier "Pretty Boy" Dyer, 20, and Christopher "Big Boy" Rozier, 20, convicted for the shooting death of Tony Richardson, 55, whom they allegedly suspected of snitching to police, were sentenced Thursday to life in prison plus 25 years in Newton County Superior Court.
In a courtroom packed with defendants for that day's court docket, Dyer and Rozier scanned the crowd trying to catch the eyes of friends and family members as they were brought out for separate hearings in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits before Judge Horace Johnson.
Dyer and Rozier were convicted on Feb. 15 of 12 counts - which were merged into four for the sentencing hearing - of murder, aggravated assault for the failed attempt to kill Richardson with rat poison in his crack pipe, sale of cocaine and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. A third defendant, Willie "Scooter" Dyer, 19, Xavier's cousin, was found not guilty. A fourth defendant, Liberty Harris, who received immunity to testify against them, still awaits trial.
Richardson, whose body was found on Jan. 31, 2007 in the woods by Stewart Road in Covington, was shot five times.
Before the sentencing, the court heard a statement from the victim's sister, Sherry Richardson-Land, who said the Richardson's murder had severely affected her family.
"The defendant has not only hurt us," she said. "I'm sure his family had no idea he was capable of doing such a horrific crime."
She recounted how her brother, the youngest boy of 15 siblings, would cut grass at the age of 11 to earn money and help their mother. His hand was injured during a shooting at a football game where he was marching with the school ROTC, which ended his military aspirations.
"From that time on," she said, "I think he lost his self-esteem and dreams."
Assistant District Attorney Melanie McCrorey asked for the maximum sentence of life plus 55 years for both defendants. According to state law, the defendants would have to serve 30 years of a life sentence before being considered for parole.
She repeated some of the descriptions from her closing argument of how the defendants shot Richardson again and again, even though he was on his hands and knees.
"They showed no mercy," she said, "and (the defendant) deserves no mercy from this court."
Dyer's attorney, Lee Sexton, reminded the judge this was Dyer's first criminal conviction and asked for life in prison and not the consecutive 55 years.
Attorney Andre Sailers, representing Rozier, similarly asked for life in prison since Rozier had no previous criminal record and that another defendant, Liberty Harris, had admitted coming up with the plan to put rat poison in Richardson's pipe.
Johnson admonished both defendants before declaring the sentence.
"This is a bad situation all around," said Johnson.
They may have gotten "chumped" into emulating something they knew nothing about and gotten in over their heads, he said.
"But that's no excuse," he added. "Somebody's dead.
"I trust you will find the means to take a negative and make it the best positive possible," said Johnson.
Rozier would be an old man by the time he got out, Johnson said, and it would be up to him to decide how he would live his life.
Sailers said he was not happy with the verdict and that they would be appealing the decision.
Rozier's mother declined to comment.
The victim's sisters said she and her family thought the sentence was fair.
"I think justice has been served," said Hortense Gooden, Richardson's sister. "Rozier has no compassion for anybody. I hope to God he finds a way to rehabilitate himself. I don't think he realized the hurt he caused both families."
"I think the judge showed compassion, not only to the victim's family but also to the defendant's family," said Richardson-Land. "I feel remorseful for the defendants' family, but they will get to see them again and we won't get to see our brother again."
She said she'd be present for any appeals. "They'll have to get in line with other appeals. By the time his appeal is heard, it'll be time for him to be released," she said.