NEW PORT RICHEY — When Torrence Antoine Bates was tried last month on a murder charge, no one came to court to support him. When the jury found him guilty, only his court-appointed lawyer stood next to him.
But on Friday, as the 21-year-old faced a sentence between 25 years and life in prison, an unlikely ally arrived in the courtroom:
Robert Moyer, one of the jurors who convicted him.
Moyer and the other 11 jurors had deliberated about 90 minutes before convicting Bates in the Nov. 9, 2007, killing of Jose Godineaux. They found him guilty of second-degree murder — not first-degree, as the state had charged.
Moyer, who appeared jittery and emotional, told Circuit Judge Shawn Crane on Friday that he didn't know if it was appropriate for him to speak. He offered condolences to Godineaux's friends and family.
The judge cut him off when he started to talk about the jury's deliberations, long considered sacred and confidential in the court system. The prosecutor objected when Moyer talked about disagreeing with some aspects of the law.
He did manage to convey this point: that the jury found Bates guilty because they had to, because they swore to follow the law, even if they didn't like it.
But they had mixed feelings.
"All the principals involved contributed to this tragedy, to this young man's death," said Moyer, seeking leniency for Bates.
Prosecutors said Bates went to Godineaux's St. James Drive apartment looking for crack cocaine. Instead of money, he brought a gun, stormed inside and shot Godineaux, 22, in the head as Godineaux returned fire.
Bates' mother, absent during the trial, came to court Friday and asked for mercy for her son. Friends of Godineaux pleaded for a life sentence for Bates.
Crane sent him to prison for 40 years, 25 of which he must serve day for day. Bates showed little reaction and didn't speak.
Moyer left as soon as the hearing ended.
John White, Bates' attorney, said Moyer contacted him right after the trial, asking if he could say something on Bates' behalf.
"He was here to stand up for him because nobody else had," White said.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.