SARASOTA — A Florida teenager received a life sentence Wednesday after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two young British tourists last April, a case that generated blaring tabloid headlines in the U.K. press.
Shawn Tyson, 17, sat stone-faced as the jury's verdict was read and as two friends of the victims spoke angrily about the crime. When Judge Rick De Furia asked Tyson if he wanted to say anything before being sentenced, Tyson mumbled, "No."
The verdict came after two hours of deliberations and the sentencing about an hour after the verdict. Because he is under 18, Tyson is ineligible for the death penalty and is facing a mandatory life sentence.
During the trial, witnesses testified that Tyson shot James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, last April 16. They were vacationing in Sarasota and spent an evening drinking when they got lost and walked into a housing project where Tyson lived. British tabloids have written stories saying the men were "slaughtered" in a Florida "ghetto."
In a statement, the families of Cooper and Kouzaris accused Tyson of being "evil," saying that they had been given "a life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken from us. Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul."
Joe Hallett, a friend of the victims who sat through the entire trial, said the pair befriended people from different walks of life and would have tried to with Tyson, as well.