Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prosecutors rest case in UK slayings trial

SARASOTA — Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday in the trial of a Sarasota teen accused of killing two British tourists in April 2011.

Defense attorneys said they would spend about an hour and a half presenting witnesses today. Closing arguments in the trial are expected later in the day.

Shawn Tyson, 17, is accused of shooting James Kouzaris and James Cooper. The two men were vacationing in city and ended up dead in a housing project early one morning after a night of drinking.

Tyson told the judge Tuesday that he would not testify at trial.

It's still unclear why the men were in the neighborhood, which is known as Newtown and is locally infamous as a crime-ridden area.

Several of Tyson's friends said the teen shot Cooper and Kouzaris even though they claimed to be lost and pleaded for their lives.

On Tuesday, Marvin Gaines, another friend of Tyson's, took the stand and said he hid the gun and shell casings used in the crime — at Tyson's request.

"I was just trying to help him out," Gaines said. "He made a big mistake."

Gaines said Tyson also told him that he shot the men.

Defense attorneys tried to discredit Gaines, saying that he lied to police during an initial interview and that he cooperated with police to avoid going to jail.

Prosecutors also called a woman to the stand who said she saw Tyson three times with the same gun that was used in the crime. She said Tyson threatened her with the gun nine days before the tourist killings.

On April 7, 2011, Tyson had three different run-ins with a group of people in the housing project where they all lived. That's when he allegedly flashed the gun. Tyson was arrested on felony weapons charges and released from a juvenile detention center on April 15 — 24 hours before the tourists were killed.

Tyson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted.

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