By Steve Hayes 07/03 Updated: 07/03 11:31
POLICE trying to build a case against the teenager accused of murdering James Cooper and his friend James Kouzaris in Florida have had to make deals with scared witnesses to get them to testify - it has been reported.
Shawn Tyson appeared in a Sarasota court, on Monday (March 5), ahead of a trial which is due to start later this month.
He is accused of shooting dead 25-year-old Hampton Lucy man, Mr Cooper, and 24-year-old Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, on a housing complex in Sarasota, in the early hours of April 16 last year.
During the hearing it was revealed the testimony of key witness, Wanda Farrior, who allegedly saw the 16-year-old run and climb into his mother's house minutes after the shootings, was only secured by helping her to move out of the housing estate.
Two other witnesses who received deals are brothers Jermaine and Joshua Bane, former friends of Tyson who accepted plea deals that helped them avoid jail time in exchange for co-operation as witnesses.
Sarasota prosecutor, Karen Fraivillig, said during the hearing the neighbourhood was one where 'everyone knows everyone' and there had been a 'fear of retaliation'.
Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris had been on holiday staying with Mr Cooper's parents when they were shot and killed some 12 miles away from their home.
CCTV footage showed them drinking in a bar in Sarasota hours before they were killed but police investigations have still not been able to uncover what the two were doing on the deprived housing complex in the early hours of the morning.
Prosecutors are now trying to bolster their case in the murder trial with a motion to include evidence from a previous shooting Tyson was charged with.
In that case, Tyson was charged with firing at the car of one of his street rivals.
On April 7, prosecutors say Tyson brandished and fired the same revolver he is accused of using to kill the two men nine days later.
Tyson was released after a failure in communication between courts - something the authorities later admitted was a mistake and apologised for.
Circuit Judge Rick DeFuria will decide whether to allow evidence from the April 7 shooting to be presented to the jury in the murder trial.
A hearing on the matter has been set for later this month.
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