About a month after his arrest on a first-degree murder charge, Marcus Oliver told his sister in a jailhouse conversation that he didn't want any witnesses testifying at his trial.
He mimicked firing a handgun and said, "I don't want them up here."
But witnesses who saw the shooting of Kurt Bryant, a respected owner of a local luxury car rental business, did show up at the trial.
Their testimony was enough to persuade jurors Friday to convict Oliver, 19. Judge Pamela Campbell sentenced him to life in prison.
As the verdict was read, Oliver wailed and shouted. He covered his face with his hands, then directed his anger at jurors.
"You took my life, man. You got me f----- up man," Oliver said. "You appreciate it that you can take my life?"
Then Oliver put his head down and sobbed.
When Judge Campbell asked him if he wanted to say anything before receiving a sentence, Oliver maintained his innocence.
"I didn't take this man's life. God knows the truth, man," he said. "You all ain't nothing but the Devil."
Because authorities lacked forensic evidence, the prosecution depended on witness testimony.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Frank Migliore Jr. reminded jurors that witnesses had come forward despite threats.
"No fewer than eight witnesses have come into this courtroom in the past several days ... identified Marcus Oliver as the man who shot Kurt Bryant to death," he said. "You've already heard the testimony ... about fear and harassment from sisters and other girls connected with the defendant."
Frank Louderback, the attorney representing Oliver, directed jurors to some inconsistencies in witnesses' testimony, as well as the fact that some had been drinking that night in May.
"Some of the people quite frankly couldn't even tell you what time it was," Louderback said. "You're going to have to look at the various witnesses, their testimony, scrutinize it, hold it up, and say 'Am I willing to believe in this person's testimony?'"
Bryant, 35, worked with children and charities. He was involved in his church, and his wife said he talked about opening a center for neighborhood children.
He was killed after spending a night with friends who had picked up some girls and were driving around town. When some of the girls argued, Bryant and his friend stopped to drop them off in the 1000 block of 13th Avenue S in St. Petersburg. As Bryant was helping a woman out of the car, police said, Oliver walked up and shot him.
The women in the limousine were reluctant to come forward. Several said they had been warned not to go to court.
Cynthia Bryant, Kurt's widow, said she was pleased with the conviction.
"This isn't going to bring Kurt back, but it helps us," she said. "God heard his cries from the blood."