After relatives of a murder victim said they don't believe in the death penalty, an Orleans Parish jury gave a convicted killer life in prison.
Tyrone Hunter, 31, gunned down a bouncer at a Mid-City bar Feb. 6, 2000, after he was kicked out for starting an argument over a $1 lap dance.
Hunter emptied a 9 mm handgun, hitting Charles Dangerfield with nine shots including two to the back of the head. An apparently drunk Hunter then fired several other shots into the bar, wounding one patron in the stomach, and then pistol-whipped two others.
A jury convicted Hunter on Thursday of first-degree murder and returned to court Friday morning to deliberate whether he would be sent to life in prison without parole or die of lethal injection. After deliberating for 112 hours, which included lunch, the jury unanimously decided to send Hunter to prison, a sentence formally issued by Judge Frank Marullo.
Before deliberating, the jury heard from relatives and attorneys for both sides.
Dangerfield's mother, Shirley sat in the courtroom but did not want to testify. A month after her son's murder, she suffered a stroke. She asked prosecutors to read a card she had written.
"I don't believe in the death penalty," the mother wrote, adding that whatever the jury decides "is truly up to God."
Dangerfield was a peacemaker, his sister testified. He had been living in Atlanta, but had come back to New Orleans because he was having some problems with his girlfriend.
A contractor who left a young daughter, Dangerfield was working the door at the Canal Bus Stop Bar and Grill, 2828 Canal St., the night Hunter lost his temper with a customer.
Dangerfield persuaded managers to let him stay. But after a second argument Hunter was put out of the bar. He returned with a gun and blasted at the bouncer before entering the club and firing the last of 15 rounds.
"He was always willing to help and would put himself in a bad position to help other people," his sister, Patrice Dangerfield, said softly. "That's probably why he was killed that night."
Hunter, clean-cut in a white dress shirt, necktie and black pants, wore a somber, worried look on his face. He appeared to tear up when his mother pleaded for his life before the jury.
Jo Ann Hunter sobbed, saying she was sorry for Dangerfield's death. "If I could do anything to bring him back, I would. I can only ask that you spare my son's life and ask God to forgive him."
Hunter has three prior felony convictions. He has one young son, who celebrated a birthday at a family party the day of the killing.
Relatives said Hunter has a drinking problem, and that he was downing beer and liquor at his son's party before heading to the club.
Defense attorney Dwight Doskey asked jurors to spare his client, saying in the end, everyone must explain his actions to a higher power. "He's got to account to his god," Doskey said of Hunter "So also do we. Eventually you too will be called to account for your actions."
Assistant district attorneys Brady O'Callaghan and Kevin Boitmann asked jurors to consider the death penalty, but stopped short of saying Hunter deserved to die.
The verdict followed a pattern in Orleans Parish, where juries are reluctant to sentence murderers to death amid the city's high murder rate.
The last death penalty hearing was in July, while the last convict condemned to die was in 1997. Phillip Anthony the gunman in the triple murder at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, remains on death row.
Hunter's was the first case to spur a death penalty hearing under District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who took office Jan. 13.
The Times-Picayune, Saturday April 12, 2003
By Gwen Filosa, Staff writer
Jury gives N.O. murderer life term
Victim's family opposed death