After roughly six hours of deliberation, a jury sentenced 44-year-old Rodney Young to die for the bludgeoning and stabbing death of 28-year-old Gary Jones.
Capital Defender Joseph Romond asked jurors to spare Young, reminding them of how he was as a child and that there were plenty of people in his life that wanted him shown mercy.
"Do we punish Rodney by sending him to the cold dark prison cell... or do we have to kill him? Put a needle in his arm and drain his life? ...killing Rodney will not bring Gary back... When Rodney stepped out into the real world there was no one there to tell him what to do... everything started to spiral out of control. The pressure got too much and something terrible happened... what happened to Gary Jones was inexcusable and awful... but there's always more facts that we want to know."
District Attorney Layla Zon was heated as she addressed jurors.
"They [the defense] used the term 'we already lost Gary, lets not take another life.' We didn't loose Gary the defendant took Gary... he stomped on this flourishing 28-year-old man's life that day... he crushed that life with that hammer and that spirit and soul with that knife... There was no mercy shown towards this man. There was no mercy shown to that family or to this human being."
While the defense brought fourth Young's kindergarten picture, Zon brought out the blood covered knife and hammer used to kill Jones.
"He didn't just want to use one instrument... he used the lamp, he used the picture frame... he left a hammer, he left a knife... he wanted it to be found... he wanted Doris to suffer. He wanted Doris to know this is how bad I killed your son, this is how bad Gary Jones died... he wanted to strike fear into that woman. And it did...Animals maul animals like that; people don't or aren't supposed to do that!" she roared while showing jurors the autopsy photos of Jones, as well as photos of his blood-soaked shirt and the walls and floor in the dining room where he was found.
"The human mind is not meant to comprehend this kind of evil... why do we have the death penalty? For the worst of the worst. This is the worst of the worst. It was savage."
These closing arguments came after a full day of testimony from both sides Monday. Witnesses for the defense told jurors why they should spare Young's life. While the state presented family members of Jones who spoke of the impact his murder has had on them.
Wayne Hendricks who met Young at Bridgeton High School when Young was a student teared up when asking the jury for mercy.
"Having known Rodney for as long as I have, he was a student, a father, a son, a brother and he's a friend. It's almost as if part of me is on trial because despite his limitations we worked together to get him where he could function as a successful individual. He has value... allowing him to live I think he could demonstrate the value that his life has."
And Young's 16-year-old daughter begged jurors "please don't kill my dad!"
The most emotional victim impact statement came from Jones' grandmother Annie Sampson.
"I have a hard time accepting the murder of Gary. My heart feels like it has been ripped out. I will always miss him. That beautiful soul, his spirit, his love. I can't express my pain, my sorrow," she said, choking up slightly and pausing on the stand.
"My life will never be the same. He was cut off from this life too early. He deserved to marry, to have children. I should have met great grandchildren by Gary. Why? I can't understand and I wish I could... When will this pain we are going through go away... I will always love Gary. He's in my heart."
Jones' mother Doris testified that she now takes medication for depression, has a fear of unlocking doors and oftentimes wakes up screaming in the middle of the night from nightmares of finding her son's body, beaten, stabbed and bound to a chair in his church clothes.
"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about what I saw. I replay the scene over and over of Gary's body when I came home that day," said Doris. "My son didn't deserve to die."
Since Young was convicted Friday for murdering Jones, jurors could hear things in the penalty phase that they could not in the guilt/innocence portion of the trial, including instances of violence in Young's past.
A former girlfriend told jurors how Young once attacked her on the street, kicking and hitting her, causing bruised ribs and a bloodshot eye and that he once punched her at a bar so hard that she needed stitches both above and below her left eye.
Doris Jones, the victim's mother and Young's girlfriend off and on for seven years told jurors that he had once choked her when she showed up to his home unannounced and that she had called the police on him in the past, once for swinging at her and once for smashing a brick through the hood of her car. Although she did file for a temporary protection order, she dismissed it and the two got back together.
The jury handed over their verdict at 6:56 p.m. As the judge read it Young stood silently, showing no emotion, much as he had throughout the trial. His family also showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
"I hereby sentence you to death by lethal injection... Mr. Young, may God have mercy on your soul," said Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn, before Young was led away in cuffs.
"I'll never have closure because G's not here," said Doris afterward. "But I thank God this is over with."