| 10.7°C Dublin

Florida tourist murders: Jury to consider verdict on suspected teenage killer


James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

Shawn Tyson is facing two first-degree murder charges (AP)

Shawn Tyson is facing two first-degree murder charges (AP)


James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

A JURY will today begin its deliberations in the trial of a teenager accused of murdering two British tourists in Florida last year.

Shawn Tyson is on trial charged with two counts of first degree murder after allegedly trying rob, then shooting dead, James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, in Sarasota.

The friends were holidaying with Mr Cooper's parents and had been out in central Sarasota, when they drunkenly walked into a public housing estate known as The Courts in the early hours of April 16.

Tyson has declined to give evidence in his defence so the jury will retire after brief closing arguments by the prosecution and defence.

When asked by Judge Rick De Furia if he wished to remain silent, Tyson said: "Yes, sir."

The court has heard that Tyson, 17, allegedly told friend Marvin Gaines that he killed the men, before giving him shell casings and a gun to bury for him.

He later gave the gun to another friend, who sold it, and led police to the shell casings. The murder weapon has never been found.

The court also heard that DNA matching the profile of Tyson was found on a sample taken from Mr Cooper's jeans.

A witness, Jessica Cunningham, told the court that on April 7, Tyson pulled a gun on her twice and on one of the occasions said: "I'll kill both of you bitches."

Tyson was arrested after the incident, and was released on April 15 - the day before the murders.

The trial has heard that Tyson told another friend, Latrece Washington, that he had killed the men.

She said Tyson told her one of the tourists cried for his life as his friend was shot, then was gunned down himself.

She told the court Tyson claimed to have told the victims that since they did not have any money, he had "something for your ass".

In a phone call to his half brother from prison, the teenager was recorded saying police had found evidence which could "f*** him up", the trial heard earlier.

The court has heard that a series of phone calls were made between Tyson and his friend Jermaine Bane around the time of the gunshots.

Neighbours of Tyson's also claim to have seen him running back to his house and climbing through the window just after the gunshots.

But the defence has claimed that many witnesses in the case had given evidence in exchange for lesser charges as part of "plea deals", while others had received benefits to encourage them to give evidence.

The families of Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, and Mr Cooper, Hampton Lucy, Warwick, were not in court for the start of the hearing, but friends Paul Davies and Joe Hallett have listened to the whole trial.