TAMPA — Loved ones brought their babies from day care, their kids from school, for the evening vigil. They filled the hall outside Courtroom 52, awaiting a jury's verdict in the 2010 murder of 17-year-old Byron Patty.
When Patty's killer was convicted of first-degree murder after five hours of deliberation, the crowded hall remained quiet, subdued. There had been too much loss, too much pain, they said, for celebration.
"I've been thinking of something my 12-year-old son told me," Patty's mother, Orkiya Andrews, said through tears. "He said, 'One must die for many to live.' "
She meant the six lives that were saved by Byron Patty's donated organs after his death from a gunshot wound to the head.
"That stays in my heart."
A Hillsborough County jury Thursday night convicted Reginald Jenkins, 19, of first-degree felony murder. The jury also convicted him of attempted murder and attempted robbery with a firearm. He faces life sentences for all three counts.
The single uncontested truth throughout the weeklong trial was that — as a defense attorney put it — "Patty was a sweet-faced young man with absolutely no reason to be dead."
For the jury, the rest of the evidence about what happened at an August 2010 dice game in Belmont Heights posed choices.
The defense asked jurors to believe Jenkins' own testimony that he was an innocent bystander who feared getting shot himself.
"I heard a shot and I ran," Jenkins told jurors Thursday.
Prosecutors asked jurors to believe another shooting victim who survived.
Alonzo Jones, 19, said Jenkins, his face partly covered with a ski mask, meant to rob him. When he resisted, he said he was hit with a .357 Magnum bullet that passed through his shoulder before fatally striking Patty, who stood behind him.
Jones said he immediately called out Jenkins by his nickname.
"Yellow Boy did it," he screamed, before collapsing.
Even though Jones testified this week in a jail jumpsuit and is himself charged with shooting a pregnant woman last year, the jury chose his version of the shooting over Jenkins'.
Jones and the woman at whose home the crowded dice game took place were the only two people to identify Jenkins.
"People can be selfish, just scared," said Assistant State Attorney Stephen Udagawa. "They don't want to be labeled a snitch. That's the reality."
In his own testimony Thursday, Jenkins admitted driving to the dice game in a car rented from a crack cocaine dealer. He admitted wearing gloves and a ski mask. He said he wore gloves so he wouldn't leave fingerprints on the drug dealer's car, and wore the mask rolled up as a fashion statement. He said he gave the mask to someone else at the dice game.
He denied bringing the .357 Magnum handgun that police found with the mask near the dice game.
Jenkins insisted he had left the dice game and walked to a nearby house when the shooting happened.
He said he ran out of fear when he heard the gunshot. He was stopped by a Tampa police officer who happened to be patrolling the area.
Jenkins showed no reaction when the verdict was read. His family threaded through the crowded hallway in silence.
Circuit Judge Emmett Battles said he would sentence Jenkins on April 27.
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or email@example.com.