MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A jury on Sunday sentenced a Memphis man to death for killing his girlfriend and her parents in a shooting rampage in a home more than two years ago.
Jurors deliberated for two hours before handing down the death sentence for Sedrick Clayton, 31. They also could have sentenced Clayton to life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole.
The same 12-person jury convicted Clayton of first degree murder Saturday for the fatal shooting of his girlfriend, 23-year-old Pashea Fisher, and her parents in the Fishers' home on January 19, 2012.
Clayton got into an argument with his girlfriend before shooting her parents, Arithio and Patricia Fisher, in their bedroom. Clayton then shot his girlfriend at close range near the front door.
Clayton fired 12 shots, hitting the victims nine times. Jurors heard a chaotic emergency call in which Pashea Fisher begged Clayton not to kill her parents.
Clayton's and Pashea Fisher's 4-year-old daughter Joydin was in the house at the time, and he took her with him before turning himself in. The girl, now 6, was a key trial witness, saying that her father shot her mother and grandparents.
"Three wonderful people lost their life in a single morning for absolutely no reason," prosecutor Jennifer Nichols said. Later, she added, "He could have left (the house) at any time. He chose not to."
Clayton did not testify or make any statements during the sentencing hearing.
Outside the courtroom, members of the Fisher family softly sang, "His Eye is on the Sparrow."
No less than 20 of the Fishers' friends and relatives attended each day of the seven-day trial. On one day they dressed in red tops, blue jeans and pearls, because Pashea Fisher's favouritecolour was red, her father often wore blue jeans, and her mother liked to wear pearls.
The Fishers also shared food with the Clayton family as they waited during jury deliberations.
Defence attorney Gerald Skahan asked the jury to spare Clayton's life and sentence him to life in prison for several reasons, including the pain his execution would cause his family and the fact Clayton had no prior adult criminal record other than traffic violations.
Clayton turned himself in after the shooting and confessed in a typed statement taken by police the same day. In the statement, Clayton said he started shooting out of fear, after Arithio Fisher kicked him in the chest while Clayton and his girlfriend argued about her possible infidelity. Skahan proposed the shootings were in self-defence.
Before the trial, Clayton offered to plead guilty in return for serving three consecutive life sentences without parole. Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich rejected the offer.
Nichols, the prosecutor, told jurors that Clayton deserved the death penalty because he committed mass murder, which she defined as the killing of three or more people during a single criminal episode or during a 48-month period.
Weirich took into consideration the opinion of the Fisher family, the brutal nature of the killings, and aggravating factors leading to a sentence of death in rejecting the plea offer, Nichols said.
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