A Lauderdale County Circuit Court jury that convicted David Dewayne Riley Jr. of capital murder Thursday must now recommend whether he be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about 25 minutes before reaching a verdict. Riley, who was charged with capital murder for the Jan. 10, 2005, shooting death of Scott Michael Kirtley during a robbery at Dandy's Package Store No. 2, displayed no emotion as the verdict was read. His stepmother, Betty Riley, began to cry.
It was the second time Riley, 26, has been convicted of capital murder for killing the 38-year-old package store clerk. He was convicted in January 2007 and sentenced to death, but that conviction was overturned on a technicality by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeal in December 2009. The first jury deliberated for about an hour before reaching its verdict.
In his closing argument Thursday, Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly urged jurors to convict Riley of capital murder. Connolly said surveillance videotapes that showed Riley robbing Kirtley and then ordering Kirtley into a back room at the store before a gunshot followed by a scream and then two more gunshots were heard was overwhelming evidence of Riley's guilt.
An Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences medical examiner testified Wednesday that Kirtley was shot three times in the head.
“The videotapes don't lie. They don't forget. They don't misconstrue,” Connolly told jurors as he held up the three videotapes that recorded the robbery. “These videos just speak the truth about what happened that night. The most crucial piece of evidence in this case is the videotapes.”
Defense attorney Chris Childers urged jurors to consider convicting Riley of manslaughter instead of capital murder. Childers suggested that Kirtley struggled with Riley before being shot.
“No one knows exactly what happened back there in that room,” Childers said. “The state has not proven (Riley) had the intent to commit murder when he went in there that night.”
Connolly scoffed at Childers' suggestion that Kirtley fought with Riley, noting that photographs from the crime scene that were displayed for jurors Tuesday showed no evidence that a struggle occurred in the storage room where Kirtley died.
“We don't know exactly what happened in that back room,” Connolly said. “Did you have to know exactly what happened in that back room when you sat here and listened to a man die? Listened to a man cry out for his life?”
Connolly reminded jurors that Riley's accomplice, Dewon Jones, testified Wednesday that Riley did not mention fighting with Kirtley when he described the shooting for Jones.
“He told you that David Riley said the only struggle was when (Kirtley) wouldn't die,” Connolly said.
Jones, who testified as a witness for the defense, told jurors Riley concocted the plan for robbing the package store because Riley was in a jam and needed money. Jones, 23, said he unsuccessfully tried to talk Riley out of robbing the store. Jones said he had no idea that Riley was going to shoot Kirtley.
Jones was convicted of murder in June 2007 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Childers contended in his closing argument that the shooting was a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“David Riley is a human being. He made some mistakes,” Childers said. “That night, it wasn't his intent to go in there and kill Scott Kirtley.”
After the verdict was reached, attorneys began presenting evidence in the penalty phase of the trial. In capital murder trials in Alabama, jurors are asked to recommend a punishment. The only sentencing options for capital murder in Alabama are life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. The judge is not bound to follow the jury's recommendation when imposing the sentence.
In the penalty phase of the trial, Kirtley's mother, Bonnie Kirtley, described her son as a loving man who was constantly helping others.
She said her family still grieves for Scott Kirtley.
“I still love you Scottie, and I'll see you in heaven,” Bonnie Kirtley said as she read from a prepared statement. “Please, your honor, bring justice for Scott Michael.”
Riley's father, David Riley Sr., asked jurors to spare Riley's life. David Riley Sr. said his son is remorseful for Kirtley's death.
“David has stressed to me that he did not intend to kill Scott Kirtley,” he said.
Jurors asked to be recessed for the night after deliberating the penalty phase of the trial for about five minutes. The deliberations resume at 8:30 a.m. today in Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Jones' courtroom.
Dennis Sherer can be reached at 256-740-5746 or dennis.sherer@TimesDaily.com.