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Jury convicts quickly in one-punch killing

An all-white jury took about 30 minutes Friday to convict a 23-year-old Tampa man of throwing a single punch that killed a Sickles High School senior two years ago.

Alan Thompson, a former basketball star at Sickles High, was solemn as he was declared guilty of third-degree felony murder and manslaughter by culpable negligence in the death of 18-year-old Christopher Fannan.

It was the second time the case had gone to trial. Racial tension hung over the courtroom because Thompson is black and Fannan was white.

A jury last year deadlocked when an African-American juror wanted an acquittal, arguing that Thompson didn't intend to inflict great bodily harm during that fateful incident in the early morning hours of May 19, 2002.

Outside of court, a cousin of Thompson expressed outrage at the racial makeup of the jury and the brief time it took for them to reach their decision.

"I'm appalled," said Latarsha Brown. "I think the jury had their minds made up before they even went into deliberations."

She questioned whether Thompson received a fair trial.

"A jury of your peers?" she asked. "There was not one African-American present."

However, the jury forewoman, Amy Cordell, said race was never an issue.

"We felt he was guilty because when you go into a situation with your fists clenched with the intent to punch someone in the face, you know you can cause great bodily harm," Cordell said, as two court bailiffs escorted her and the five other jurors to their cars.

She said two of the jurors are middle school teachers, people who must be fair in their daily dealings with schoolchildren.

"(Race) didn't enter into our minds at all," she said.

The jury began deliberating at 12:15 p.m. and notified the judge it had reached a verdict at 12:45 p.m.

Thompson's defense attorney, Brian Gonzalez, said he was "a bit surprised" that the jury reached its decision so quickly. In 20 years of practicing law, he has seen fast deliberations, he said, but none this quick.

"I would not have believed that 30 minutes would be sufficient " he said. "I certainly thought we gave them more to think about, but I guess I was wrong."

At 6 feet 5 and 200 pounds, Thompson was 8 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Fannan.

During his closing argument Friday, prosecutor Curt Allen compared Thompson's "sneak attack" outside the Steak n Shake restaurant in Citrus Park to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center.

"He had this kid in every category _ age, height, weight, leverage," Allen said, but "he didn't even give him a chance to put his hands up, to block the blow."

The prosecutor said Thompson should have known that his fists could cause great bodily harm since, in 1998, with a single punch, he broke another man's nose and chipped three of the man's teeth.

Thompson did not need to throw a second punch at Fannan, the prosecutor said. The first punch killed him.

"Mission accomplished," the prosecutor told jurors.

Fannan's mother, Cyndi Fannan, cried what she called "tears of joy."

"We've waited for this day a long time," Fannan said. "I can smile again _ a little bit."

Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced on March 10. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

_ Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or nguyensptimes.com. Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or goffardsptimes.com.

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