Wake County prosecutors made an impassioned plea Tuesday that a double murderer deserves the death penalty because burglary and robbery for cash and guns were aggravating factors in the case.
“This case, I submit to you, is everyone’s worst nightmare,” Wake prosecutor Howard Cummings said. “You work hard. You raise your kids. You go home. You go to bed. You lock your house. You think your house is secure, but it’s not. Is that enough? Is that not important enough?”
But defense attorney Richard Gammon countered that prosecutors were unable to present evidence showing that Donovan Jevonte Richardson was even in the Fuquay-Varina home when Arthur Lee Brown and David Eugene McKoy were shot and killed in summer 2014.
“He surely didn’t kill Mr. McKoy,” Gammon told jurors Tuesday in the sentencing phase of Richardson’s trial. “I submit you had doubts that he was in the house and shot anyone.”
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Gammon also told the jury that if Richardson shot Brown, it was because he was under emotional duress after the shooting victim pointed a gun at him to ward off the home invaders.
“It’s a tragic case,” Gammon said, “but ladies and gentlemen, it’s not a death penalty case.”
Late Friday afternoon, the jury found Richardson, 24, guilty in the first-degree felony murders of Brown, a popular 74-year-old construction company owner, and McKoy, 66, Brown’s longtime friend and employee, during a nighttime burglary and robbery at Brown’s Fuquay-Varina home.
North Carolina law defines a homicide as felony murder if it was committed in the act or attempted act of felony arson, rape, robbery, kidnapping, burglary or a felony committed with the use of a deadly weapon.
The jury also found Richardson guilty of first-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary, along with first-degree robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Under what is known as the felony-murder rule, Cummings and prosecutor Matt Lively were not required to prove that the shooting deaths of Brown and McKoy were premeditated or deliberate, but instead that Richardson, along with two other men, intended to burglarize and rob Brown’s home.
Prosecutors said Richardson and Gregory A. Crawford of Fuquay-Varina broke into the home in the early morning hours of July 18, 2014. Prosecutors think Richardson was armed with a .9 mm handgun when he shot and killed Brown. The homeowner tried to defend himself with a .38 revolver that he kept at his bedside. Prosecutors said Brown was struck by gunfire twice in the chest and once in the right hand. Crawford picked up the .38 revolver, went into a second bedroom and shot McKoy between the eyes.
Crawford was sentenced to life in prison. A third accomplice, Kevin Bernard Britt, waited outside in a vehicle for the burglars. Britt has not gone to trial but has been cooperating with the prosecution and could be sentenced to a minimum of 52 months in prison.
Gammon said Tuesday that Britt, who he called “an admitted liar,” could be released from prison in about 17 months after spending about three and a half years in jail awaiting trial.
On Tuesday, Cummings displayed an aerial view of the Howard Road neighborhood where Brown lived. He asked jurors to consider the impact the shootings had on the victims’ families and the community.
“He was the man on the hill. The man that would give us jobs,” Cummings said about Brown. “The pink top of that house was like a beacon.”
McKoy, Cummings said, “was a simple man, who lived a simple life. He was not a Rhodes Scholar. Sometimes he would hitchhike to get to work or rode a bike. He worked hard everyday. He helped people. He loved his family. That is what importance is. That is what significance is.”
Lively noted that the presence of Richardson’s family may elicit mercy from the jury and prompt a sentence of life in prison. He said the case requires justice.
“Not sympathy, not mercy, but justice that speaks the truth,” he said.
Joseph Zeszotarski, Gammon’s co-counsel, pointed out that Richardson was 21 when he was arrested.
“In youth, tragically, sometimes a person doesn’t learn until it’s too late,” Zeszotarski said. “He’s 24, looking at a life of literally a living hell. They call it life. It’s not life. It’s an existence.”
“Where’s the mercy in that?” he asked the jurors.
The last time Wake County jurors imposed a death sentence was in 2007, when Bryan Lamar Waring was convicted for the first-degree murder of Lauren Redman, 22, of Knightdale.
Redman’s body was riddled with dozens of stab wounds on Nov. 8, 2005, after Waring showed up at her West Raleigh apartment to collect money he said she owed for drugs She died in a breezeway after being raped and stabbed.
Richardson's trial marks the ninth death-penalty case in Wake County since 2008. The previous eight cases all ended in sentences of life without parole.