Florida Murders
'We will share your life sentence' - family statement

By Steve Hayes 29/03 Updated: 04/04 15:28

Murderer Shawn Tyson. (s)

'WE WILL share your life sentence' - this was the heart-rending message from the family and friends of Hampton Lucy man James Cooper and his friend James Kouzaris as Shawn Tyson was found guilty of their murders.

A jury at the Sarasota court which heard the eight-day trial, took just two hours to find Tyson guilty and the 17-year-old now faces life in prison with no chance of parole.

Mr Cooper, a 25-year-old tennis coach, who grew up in Kenilworth, and his friend, James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, were shot dead on a housing estate in Sarasota, Florida, in the early hours of April 16 last year.

The pair, who met at Sheffield University, and were staying with Mr Cooper's parents at a resort some miles away, were killed after drunkenly wandering into the tourist no-go estate after a night out.

During the trial the court heard a then 16-year-old Shawn Tyson killed them after trying to rob them.

In a statement the families of both men said they were satisfied with the verdict.

But they said the brutal killings had given them their own life sentence 'with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul'.

The families also criticised the Sarasota court system which had earlier apologised for setting Tyson free after another shooting incident just hours before the two men were murdered - despite a judge having warned he was a danger to the public.

The family statement continued: "The evil of the killer is one thing, but the fact is, he would not have been on the streets had instructions to keep him incarcerated been passed from one judge to another."

Tyson and his mother stared blankly as the verdict was read out.

Friends of the two men then addressed him directly with passionate and moving speeches before sentencing was passed and videos of family members giving emotional statements were also played in court.

During the trial jurors heard how Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper had been out drinking in downtown Sarasota before getting lost and wandering into the Newtown area in the early hours.

The prosecution said they were confronted by Tyson who attempted to rob them and then shot them when he realised they had little money.

The trial also heard Tyson had boasted to his friend Latrece Washington, who testified against him, that one of the men had begged for his life but he shot him anyway.

Buy photos» PIC FROM CATERS NEWS Pictured: James Cooper

Buy photos» James Kouzaris. (s)

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