By Kevin Unitt 22/03 Updated: 28/03 15:40
FAMILY and friends of murdered Hampton Lucy man James Cooper have made their way to Florida as the trial of the 17-year-old accused of killing him gets under way.
Tennis coach James Cooper, a 25-year-old, was gunned down along with friend James Kouzaris, 24, after a night out in downtown Sarasota during their holiday there in April last year.
Suspect Shawn Tyson, who was arrested the next day and lived in the notorious The Courts public housing where the two men died, is accused of fatally shooting them after attempting to rob them. If found guilty he faces life in prison without parole. The trial is expected to last about a week.
On Monday – the day Tyson turned 17 - local media in Sarasota reported prosecutors and defence attorneys had dismissed 34 prospective jurors – from a total jury pool of 75 – as they had either 'already made up their minds about the case' or would suffer 'significant hardship' if they served on the jury for the eight-day trial.
Jury selection continued on Tuesday and Wednesday with opening statements in the trial scheduled to begin today.
Paul Davies, a friend of the Cooper and Kouzaris families and one of the men behind the Always A Chance charity set up in honour of the pair, said he was flying to America for the trial.
Writing online to thank supporters of the charity, he added: “This is going to be a very difficult time for all involved as we seek to get justice for both the lads.
“I'm sure it is our collective wish that justice is done and that someone is convicted and suitably punished for what has happened.
“This is the final episode in what has been the worst of years but it is also clearly the most important. This is a time for the truth to emerge and for Jam and Cooper's story to be told - something they will never be able to do themselves.”
Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris, who had met at Sheffield University, had been holidaying with Mr Cooper's parents 12 miles away from the site of the fatal shooting on the island city of Longboat Key.
Mr Cooper was a full time coach for Inspire2coach based at Warwick University, teaching tennis predominantly at Beechwood Tennis Club in Coventry and Alcester Tennis Club.
Visit www.stratfordobserver.co.uk for updates on the trial.
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