Jury to decide fate of Florida brothers

Published: Sep. 6, 2002 at 3:18 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2003 at 6:56 PM EDT
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(Pensacola, Fla.-AP) Sept. 6, 2002 - The case against 13- and 14-year-old brothers accused of a deadly baseball bat attack on their father is headed for the jury.

Deliberations were set to begin Friday in the first-degree murder trial of Alex and Derek King, who face mandatory life in prison without parole if convicted.

In an unusual twist, it is the second trial in the same killing. Convicted child molester Ricky Chavis, 40, was also tried under a completely different theory of the crime — that he wielded the aluminum bat that killed Terry King. The verdict reached last week in his trial was sealed until the King brothers' trial ends. He faces the same sentence.

On Thursday, prosecutor David Rimmer asked jurors not to be swayed by anger with Chavis.

"You don't like Chavis?" Rimmer said. "Nobody likes Chavis. Chavis is the kind of guy everybody wants to hate. What's lower than a child molester?"

Firefighters found the body of Terry King, also 40, on a recliner inside his burning home, and the brothers confessed to police a day after the slaying. The pair now say Chavis is the real killer.

But Rimmer said the boys were telling the truth the first time, and that their confessions are filled with the kind of detail only someone who was there would have known.

Defense lawyers contended the boys confessed to protect Chavis and parroted what he had coached them to say. That included such gory details as being able to see the victim's brain through a hole in his head and the raspy sound of his last gasps.

"Everyone in this courtroom can repeat those details," said James Stokes, Alex's lawyer. "The boys' stories line up because the boys' stories are rehearsed."

The boys changed their stories more than four months after the murder, telling a grand jury Chavis killed Terry King while the brothers hid in the trunk of Chavis' car. The grand jury then indicted Chavis.

Rimmer argued Derek swung the bat while Alex urged him to commit the killing, just as the brothers had originally confessed.

Earlier Thursday, Derek King took the witness stand only to tell Circuit Judge Frank Bell he would not testify in his own defense.

"Yes sir, it was my decision," he said in a clear, strong voice.

His soft-spoken brother testified Wednesday that the boys took the blame because they wanted to live with Chavis, and that he had told them they would be exonerated by claiming self-defense because they are juveniles. Both boys testified against Chavis last week.

Sharon Potter, one of Derek King's lawyers, said in her closing argument that the boys had no motive to kill their father, but that Chavis did. She said Chavis wanted to keep Terry King from finding out he was having sex with Alex.

Rimmer said the boys' motive was to escape a controlling father and live with Chavis, who allowed the boys to play video games, stay up late watching television and smoke marijuana when they went to his house after running away from home 10 days before the killing.

He also pointed to Alex's affection for Chavis, reading from several love letters he had written including one that ended "Before I met Rick I was straight, but now I am gay."

posted 11:13am by Chris Rees