LARGO — A Pinellas jury needed less than an hour Thursday to convict a St. Petersburg man of shooting to death a 17-year-old youth after a dispute over a parking space.
Marquis Woods, 27, was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He shot Jermairio Nesbitt three times in the early morning of July 28, 2005, outside a St. Petersburg club that was holding a teen dance.
Nesbitt's mother, Darlene, said that she hoped Woods would find God in prison, earn salvation and one day apologize to her son in heaven.
"I have to give thanks to God for having justice," she said.
Nesbitt, who attended Boca Ciega High School, spent the last day of his life going to the mall with friends to buy school clothes and attending summer football practice. Then he and his friends went to Club Karma, 1833 First Ave. S.
Nesbitt, who was driving his mother's silver Mazda, left the club but later returned to check out some girls. He pulled into a parking space near where the girls were hanging out.
Woods and some friends were cruising the area that night — also in search of girls. Nesbitt apparently cut in front of their car to take the parking space and an argument began. Nesbitt, who was 6 feet and 240 pounds but had a cherubic face and constant smile, put the car in reverse and said he was pulling out.
But Woods exited his car and, at close range, fired three times into the driver's side window. Nesbitt was killed. The car rolled in reverse into the street and banged into a tree.
Woods fled and pitched the gun in a lake, but later turned himself in. He claimed self defense during trial.
Witnesses who said they heard him shoot once, pause and then fire again didn't help that defense claim.
"To say or think that the law of self defense applies to this case is utterly ridiculous," Prosecutor Fred Schaub told jurors in closing arguments. "What's the next thing that happens? You're leaving Sunday church and someone cuts you off and you can shoot them?"
Woods' family declined to comment after the verdict.
Nesbitt's mother said her son was a fine young man who hoped to attend college on a football scholarship — just like his older brother.
She said Jermairio's brother, her only other child, has found trouble since the murder and has been in jail.
The two friends Nesbitt was with that night also are in jail.
Mrs. Nesbitt said she wants to now focus on helping those young men. She said her son — who had not been drinking or doing drugs at the time of his death — kept his friends out of trouble.
"He was their pillar," she said. "He kept them straight."