LARGO — Maurice Mack came to court in a T-shirt bearing pictures of her slain sister and the three young daughters she left behind. Mack needed only a few words to deliver her message to the judge: "Please, whatever you do, don't let him back out."
On Friday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Richard Luce sentenced John Lee Hampton to death for murdering Lashonda McKinnes, 25, in Clearwater in 2007.
Hampton "has forfeited his right to live," Luce said.
Hampton was taken in for questioning after McKinnes was killed and gave several different accounts to explain the incriminating evidence, including blood on his clothing. He ultimately said he accidentally killed McKinnes because she came after him while he riffled through her possessions. He raped her and slit her throat, and then tried to wash his DNA off her body with cleaning chemicals and lighter fluid.
He was convicted in June. Since then, prosecutors and defense attorneys have argued in court papers about whether Hampton deserves the penalty.
Luce found some mitigating factors that argue against the death penalty, including the fact that Hampton suffers from mental health problems.
But Luce added, "The aggravating factors in this case are horrendous. The defendant was on probation for failing to register as a sex offender in Georgia when he murdered (Lashonda) McKinnes." And also, he "committed the murder during the course of burglary, robbery, sexual battery."
For those and other reasons, "these factors greatly outweigh the comparatively insignificant mitigating factors," Luce said.
Luce said he also was giving great weight to the jury's 9-3 vote in favor of giving Hampton the death penalty.
Hampton, 35, wearing blue jail scrubs over a gray sweat shirt, showed no reaction to his death sentence.
Mack did. She shed some tears and got hugs from other relatives. She spoke later of the three nieces she is raising, and how they often want to wear their "Mommy shirts" — just like the one Mack wore to the courtroom.
For her part, she wishes Hampton had gotten a life sentence without the possibility of parole. She said he deserves to think about what he did for a long, long time.
Curtis Krueger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.