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3 years later, men convicted in slaying of homeless man

FORT LAUDERDALE — Two men were convicted Friday of killing a homeless man with a baseball bat and viciously attacking two others in 2006. One of the beatings was captured on videotape, outraging homeless advocates nationwide.

Prosecutors sought first-degree murder charges against Brian Hooks, 21, and Thomas Daugherty, 19. After deliberating about nine hours over two days, a jury convicted them of lesser second-degree murder and two counts each of attempted second-degree murder. They could get life in prison.

Prosecutors repeatedly played the surveillance video, which shows a surviving victim desperately trying to protect his body from numerous blows. At closing arguments, prosecutors also presented baseball bats similar to the ones the defendants used, describing how the men hid the bats in their pants and sneaked up on defenseless victims such as 45-year-old Norris Gaynor, who was sleeping on a park bench when he was beaten to death.

Daugherty cried after the verdict, shook prosecutors' hands and asked if he could speak to Gaynor's family. His attorney told him to wait for another time.

"He's filled with remorse and confusion," his attorney Michael Gottlieb said. Daugherty had a "sad upbringing" that played a role in his actions, Gottlieb said, and he planned to bring that up at sentencing Oct. 22.

Family members of both defendants left without commenting. Hooks' family, including a young sister and a friend who studied with school books during court breaks, wept openly as Hooks was fingerprinted and led away.

Waiting three years for a verdict felt painfully long, the slain victim's mother, Georgia Gaynor, said during the first day of deliberations. The Gaynors also left Friday without comment.

"A verdict in any case, especially a murder case, where a man is murdered, is dead, you can't bring him back, is bittersweet," prosecutor Brian Cavanagh said. "No verdict changes that."

A third defendant, William Ammons, 21, pleaded guilty in May to felony murder and aggravated assault and awaits a sentence from 10 to 20 years. He testified against Hooks and Daugherty.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against any of the three because Daugherty was 17 at the time and is ineligible for capital punishment.

Prosecutors said the teens were smoking marijuana and drinking vodka when they decided in the early hours of Jan. 12, 2006, to go cruising and "beat up some bums." They drove to three separate locations, first assaulting Jacques Pierre, 61, who was captured on video.

3 years later, men convicted in slaying of homeless man 09/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008 9:57pm]
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