By Calvin Palmer
Two teenagers and a 20-year-old convicted of gang raping a Florida woman and beating her young son were handed life sentences yesterday.
Palm Beach Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentenced Jakaris Taylor, 17, and Nathan Walker, 18, to life in prison while Tommy Poindexter, 20, was sentenced to life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison. A fourth defendant, Avion Lawson, 16, pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in December.
The courtroom, packed with relatives of the defendants erupted when the sentences were read out.
After Poindexter scuffled with a corrections officer, his brother, Masterson Poindexter, yelled out, “What the f**k are you doing to my brother!”
Then the 13-year-old half brother of Taylor ran past officers and deputies and opened a back door where his brother had been led in shackles. The crying boy was detained by deputies but later freed.
The four were convicted of barging into the then-35-year-old woman’s West Palm Beach apartment in 2007 and raping her repeatedly, then beating her 12-year-old son and forcing her to perform oral sex on him. They then doused the two in chemicals and left when they could not find a match.
Authorities say fingerprints and DNA found on clothing and condoms in the apartment identified the defendants, who were juveniles at the time of the crime.
Defense lawyers had argued that sentencing juveniles to life in prison amounts to cruel and unusual punishment — something that does not even occur in Iraq and North Korea.
The defense pointed out that the youths were products of troubled upbringings. One was born cocaine addicted, another lost his father at a young age and another was constantly beaten by his grandmother.
Taylor’s mother testified that she had been treated for mental illness and alcoholism, and was raped twice. “I don’t want him to get life,” she told Marx. “Every child deserves a second chance.”
Taylor’s father, Nathan Taylor Sr, testified that he was in and out of recovery for drug addiction, saying, “I’ve battled my own demons. I’m asking you to give him a second chance and take into account what he has endured.”
Prosecutor Aleathea McRoberts countered, “There is a huge population of kids who were raised by single moms without much money who don’t have jobs that never go on to commit crimes.
“This community has a right to be protected from these juveniles. Short of killing this woman and her son, there is not much worse they could have done.”
Judge Marx agreed and told the defendants, “This was not a garden variety crime by any means. It was designed to instill fear and invoke terror and gave you all pleasure and excitement. Most of us have a moral code and refrain from wrongdoing. I can only surmise that none of you have a moral code.”
In a statement outside the court, State Attorney Michael McAuliffe said, “Today, justice was done for the mother and child who were the victims of a brutal, vicious attack on their bodies and their characters. The blameless in this case are the victims who will likely never fully move beyond one’s worst nightmare made all too real.”
Public Defenders Carey Haughwout and Robert Gershman said they would file motions for new trials and appeal.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]