Nightclub killer sentenced to death

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 44-year-old Jacksonville man was sentenced to death Friday for the 2009 killing of a man during a robbery at a Northside nightclub.

Last month a jury found Rodney Newberry guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery in the shooting death of 43-year-old Terrese Pernell Stevens in December 2009. The jury then voted 8-4 to recommend the death penalty for Newberry.

Newberry and two others robbed and shot Stevens (pictured below) several times with an AK-47 as he sat in his car outside a North Pearl Street nightclub.

"He committed, not just the murder of an innocent victim, Mr. Stevens, but also attempted to kill two police officers, and also almost killed a human being in 1990," Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said.

De la Rionda pointed out more of Newberry's violent criminal record.

"He shot somebody at a record store, shot him like five or six times," he said. "Thankfully, that innocent victim lived. Then he committed the act against his wife or girlfriend. Then after he committed this murder. He tried to kill two police officers. So in my humble opinion, he is the billboard for why you have a death penalty. He is the perfect person to why you need a death penalty."

On Friday, Judge Adrian Soud formally sentenced Newberry to death on the murder charge and life for the armed robbery.

Soud had extremely harsh words for Newberry, who walked in the courtroom with a smirk on his face. Soud said Newberry preyed on the innocent.

"The defendant deliberately and consciously pulled the trigger of the devastating weapon that was utilized to tragically end the life of Mr. Stevens," Soud said. "Mr. Newberry, may God have mercy upon you. Thank you very much."

Stevens' family was at the sentencing but was too emotional to speak afterward, except to say justice was served and Stevens' life mattered.

Stevens left behind two young children.

"We tend to overlook sometimes the victim and the victim's family," de la Rionda said. "This was an innocent man who just happened to be outside a club. All he was doing was sitting in his car."

As part of the proceedings, Soud discussed several possible mitigating factors, including Newberry's history of depression, mood swings and the death of his father years ago. He decided none applied in the case.

"I think the punishment fit the crime," Pastor Kenneth Adkins said.

Adkins has long advocated for more death sentences in black-on-black crime. He hopes Friday's decision sends a clear message.

"As you know, we're attempting to take some kids to see death row," Adkins said. "We want them to get the message. That's the only way that they're going to really realize when you do something stupid, this is what happens."

"I think he is a menace to society," de la Rionda said of Newberry. "I think we are all safer now that he is locked up, and I hope the death penalty is imposed in a timely manner."

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