Man Gets Two Life Sentences In Ga. Tourist Murder

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The teen who was convicted a second time for the murder of a Georgia tourist was sentenced Friday to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

Juan Curtis, 26, was convicted of first-degree murder Oct. 14 for the May 2000 robbery slaying of Mary Ann Stephens, 64, outside a motel.

Defense attorney Refik Eler told the jury that there was reasonable doubt that Curtis shot Mrs. Stephens.

Eler wanted the judge to hear from two jurors as part of a motion for a mistrial, but the judge denied it.

Forewoman Dale Simmons called Eler after the trial to voice her concerns. He said Simmons, who is black, felt pressured by the white jurors to convict Curtis.

"I asked her, 'Well, do you think that this pressure was intimidation?' And she said, 'No, I wouldn't call it intimidation. I would call it pressure, but I do think that that pressure influenced my verdict,'" Eler said.

In a phone interview with Channel 4's Casey Black, Simmons said she felt that there was reasonable doubt in the case and she wished she could take back her vote.

The forewoman also claimed one of the other jurors said she felt God put her on the jury to make sure no one else was killed.

Curtis was convicted once before of the crime, but an appeals court ruled that the trial judge should have let Curtis' attorneys introduce testimony about a confession, now discredited, by then-15-year-old Brenton Butler.

Butler was acquitted in November 2000 after testifying his confession to the same crime was false and was beaten out of him. He repeated that in Curtis' trial.

The documentary on Butler's case, "Murder on a Sunday Morning," won an Academy Award in 2002.

Curtis' co-defendant, Jermel Williams, was also sentenced to an additional 6 months in prison for refusing to testify in Curtis' retrial. Williams is already serving a 10 year sentence on his guilty plea in the murder.

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