GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A Clay County jury voted unanimously Friday to recommend four death sentences for Gary McCray, who was convicted earlier this month of killing four people with an assault rifle in 2004.
The jury returned the recommendation after less than one hour of deliberations.
The quick decision follows a morning of testimony and closing arguments in the penalty phase of the trial. The judge agreed to let McCray give his own closing statement.
"The state did not prove their case," McCray told the jury.
The same jury found McCray guilty of killing Phillip Perrotta, 53, John Whitehead, 37, John Oliver Ellis Jr., 51, and Robin Selkirk, 45. Prosecutors said the slayings were drug-related, as three of the four victims were arrested along with McCray in a previous drug raid at that same house.
The trial was delayed for years when McCray was not found competent to stand trial. When it finally began in July, it was interrupted several times by outbursts from McCray, who threatened and tried to fire his attorney, lectured Judge William Wilkes and repeatedly interrupted proceedings.
At least twice during the trial, McCray was removed from the courtroom by bailiffs.
Several family members of the victims testified Friday morning for the prosecution in the penalty phase of the trial.
Channel 4's Dan Leveton said that McCray's closing statement was rambling as he continued to maintain his innocence, saying the prosecution "contaminated the mind of the jury."
"I told the truth to the jury," McCray said. "I beat the state's argument on the witnesses ... I would like to ask the jury, why do you think the defendant was found guilty? Let's start with you."
Prosecutors and the judge repeatedly reminded McCray that what was relevant at this point was the penalty, not his guilt.
The jury began deliberations for a sentencing recommendation after lunch. It returned with its 12-0 recommendation of death at about 2:15 p.m.
The victims' families welcomed the jury's unanimous decision.
"It was scary during the trial that maybe somebody said the wrong thing and the jury didn?t get to hear every single thing because the way the system has to be so careful about how they say certain things. It was a little bit scary," said Whitehead's wife, Tracey Whitehead. "There was relief when they read the verdict."
The final decision on McCray's fate will be made by the judge.
- September 8, 2008: McCray Convicted Of 4 Counts Of Murder
- September 4, 2008: Defendant Kicked Out Of Court After Taking Stand
- September 3, 2008: Murder Trial Resumes Without Incident
- September 2, 2008: Murder Trial Restarts With More Fireworks
- July 29, 2008: Quadruple Murder Trial Delayed, Again
- July 28, 2008: Bailiffs Pull Quadruple Murder Defendant From Courtroom
- December 7, 2006: Man Ruled Competent To Stand Trial In 4 Killings
- February 2, 2006: Judge: Man Accused Of Killing 4 In Orange Park Not Competent
- August 17, 2004: North Florida Man Charged In Quadruple Homicide
- May 27, 2004: Quadruple Orange Park Killing Suspect Caught In Tallahassee
- May 25, 2004: 3 Orange Park Slaying Victims Had Been Arrested With Suspect
- May 24, 2004: Manhunt Continues For Suspect In Orange Park 'Mass Killing'