Convicted child-murderer Richard L. Crawford is seen in court Tuesday, where a jury recommended that he receive life without parole during his advisory sentencing. The judge will decide July 18.
Life term likely for Ocala man who killed son
By Suevon Lee
Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 12:12 p.m.
OCALA -A jury recommended Tuesday that a judge spare Richard L. Crawford his life and sentence him to the lesser of two fates: life in prison, with no chance of parole. But some jurors wanted to see Crawford get a death sentence.
The recommendation for a life sentence came after nearly three-and-a-half hours of deliberations, the outcome of which dissatisfied at least one juror - Artie Adkins.
In a phone interview, Adkins - one of five men on the jury - said he was a proponent for giving Crawford capital punishment and was joined by two others, according to a poll jurors took 20 minutes before it emerged to announce its decision to the courtroom.
"The other two plus myself decided there's no use in arguing," Adkins, 60, a Vietnam War veteran, said. "We could not convince nine people to change their vote. I was very disappointed in it. I left as quickly as possible and I wouldn't even say goodbye to the jurors."
Whatever decision the jury came to, it needed a majority vote, with more than six people leaning one direction.
Senior Judge William T. Swigert must assign the recommendation "great weight" under Florida law when he sentences Crawford on July 18.
The state does not plan to request a jury override, Assistant State Attorney Robin Arnold said, explaining that in only rare circumstances in death penalty cases do prosecutors request the judge bypass the jury's recommendation.
The jury did not make its decision "haphazardly," she said.
"I can't be disappointed with what they decided," the prosecutor said.
The 12-member panel found Crawford, 33, guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse two weeks ago in the fatal beating of his 5-year-old son in February 2006.
Adkins said the jurors were unanimously convinced of Crawford's guilt during the earlier phase of the trial - but that when it came to the sentencing portion, "they all fell apart."
"[Crawford] did the crime, we all know that, so why not give him the punishment he deserves?" he asked. "The death penalty is a good deterrent for this kind of crime."
Crawford was stoic as a court clerk read the jury's decision early Tuesday afternoon. His defense attorney, James Tarquin, said afterwards his client was "relieved" and had been "very nervous" beforehand. "Anyone [in that position] would be," Tarquin said, adding that he believed the state had no business seeking the death penalty because the crime was not premeditated or intentional. "It should be used very sparingly," he said.
Tarquin said he plans to file motions for judgment for acquittal and a new trial in the days ahead.
Members of the defendant's extended family embraced outside the courtroom following the decision, but declined comment. A family friend, Pat Dalton, said in a phone interview later that nobody in the family had expected Crawford to be found guilty two weeks ago.
"I went in that day to see him walk out," Dalton, 54, said, of her attendance at court the day of the guilty verdict last Friday.
Crawford's mother, Arthur Crawford, who was once married to Dalton's uncle, is "very grateful to the Lord," Dalton said regarding Tuesday's decision. "She's a very God-fearing woman."
Earlier Tuesday, the seven-woman, five-man jury panel listened to closing arguments of the penalty phase of the trial from Assistant State Attorney Janine Nixon and Tarquin as the lawyers sought to drive home what punishment they believed the defendant deserved.
"[Crawford] left him in that room to die alone," Nixon said, referring to the place in Crawford's southeast Ocala home where the state asserted the defendant fatally whipped his son with a belt on Feb. 16, 2006.
"Coreyon knew he was going to be hit, again and again, here and here and here and here," Nixon said, gesturing with her hands the wide area where Coreyon, a kindergarten student at Evergreen Elementary School, suffered bruising on his body - injuries so severe the state portrayed the crime as heinous, atrocious, and cruel.
Tarquin, on the other hand, implored to the jury to see that the beating represented one "aberration" in his client's life and that life in prison without parole would be enough punishment for his client.
"Every single day he's going to be punished for the rest of his life," he said. "We're talking about Richard Crawford's 33 years on this earth, and they want to kill him for one day."
The defense presented as mitigators Crawford's character - which family members spoke positively about on Monday afternoon - and his relatively young age. Coreyon was one of 12 children that Crawford fathered with various women.
Still, Dalton - who said she has a relationship with both the defendant's and victim's family - is convinced Coreyon wasn't killed by his father, nor Alnethia Coley, the little boy's grandmother who had legal custody over the child at the time of his death. The defense had attempted to portray Coley as culpable in the child's death during the trial.
"The lifestyle they led - anyone could have done it," she said. "I do believe there is a guilty person out there, but they have convicted the wrong man."
Suevon Lee can be reached at 867-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.