Chester Man Guilty Of Murder, Jury Finds The Jury Must Next Say Whether James Mclaughlin Should Die For Killing An Ex-boyfriend Of His Girlfriend.

Posted: October 06, 1999

A Delaware County jury yesterday found James McLaughlin guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of a 20-year-old Chester man, rejecting the defense's argument that the shooting was accidental.

The jury will now decide whether McLaughlin, 28, of Chester, will be sentenced to life in prison or death.

Witnesses testified that McLaughlin approached a car in which Damon Hastings was seated in the front passenger seat and shot him in the head on Aug. 14, 1998.

On Friday, McLaughlin told the jury that Hastings pulled out a gun when he approached the car in Chester and that the gun went off after a struggle.

Assistant District Attorney Salvatore Astolfi, who argued that McLaughlin had acted with intent to kill, said, ``My hat is off to the jury for seeing through the defense that was raised here.''

After the verdict was announced, Hastings' grandfather, James Warren, said, ``Justice has been done.'' Warren and his wife, Mary, have attended the trial each day with relatives in memory of Hastings, their oldest grandson. Hastings said he believed the death penalty was warranted.

Astolfi said the verdict ``is for the family. Their loved one was taken from them. They deserved this verdict today.''

Hastings was described as a quiet, nonviolent man who kept to himself and enjoyed baseball as a young man. His two toddlers attended some of the eight-day trial.

The jury also found McLaughlin guilty of recklessly endangering Terron Reed, the driver in the car with Hastings. In seeking the death penalty, Astolfi said he would argue that McLaughlin knowingly created a grave risk of death to Reed.

McLaughlin's attorney, Clinton Johnson, said he planned to appeal the verdict. The judge ruled that the jury would not be permitted to hear a considerable amount of evidence, he said.

Tracie Burns, who will represent McLaughlin during the penalty phase of the case, is expected to call a number of character witnesses for McLaughlin today. Some of McLaughlin's family left the courtroom in tears yesterday after the verdict was read.

The shooting came a few days after McLaughlin became enraged when he saw his girlfriend with Hastings, her ex-boyfriend, at a liquor store in Delaware, according to testimony. ``I told her I could kill her,'' he testified, saying he was very upset. After the incident at the liquor store, he wanted to tell Hastings that he had no animosity toward him, he testified.

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