Florida teen gets life for killing Brit tourists

Posted: March 29, 2012

SARASOTA, FLA. - A Florida teenager received a life sentence Wednesday after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two British tourists last April 16, a case that generated blaring tabloid headlines in the U.K. press.

Shawn Tyson, 17, sat stone-faced as the jury's verdict was read. When Judge Rick De Furia asked Tyson if he wanted to say anything before being sentenced, Tyson mumbled, "No."

The verdict came after two hours of deliberations and the sentencing about an hour after the verdict. Because he is under 18, Tyson was able to evade the death penalty.

During the trial witnesses testified that Tyson shot James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, last April 16. The two men were vacationing in Sarasota and spent an evening drinking when they got lost and walked into a housing project where Tyson lived. Details of their deaths have gripped the British news media. Tabloids there have written stories saying the men were "slaughtered" in a Florida "ghetto."

In a statement, the families of Cooper and Kouzaris accused Tyson of being "evil," saying that they had been given "a life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken from us. Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul."

Kouzaris was from Northampton and Cooper was from Hampton Lucy. Authorities said both were drunk when they got lost and wandered just before 3 a.m. into the housing project.

Witnesses testified that Tyson had told them that he saw two "crackers" - slang for white people - walking through the neighborhood and that he intended to rob them. The tourists said they didn't have any money and begged Tyson to let them go home. The men also told Tyson that they were lost.

"Since you ain't got no money, then I have something for your ass," Tyson recounted to a witness, then added that he shot the men several times.

The tourists' bodies were found shirtless on the street and their baggy pants were pulled down to their thighs. Both men still had their wallets and did in fact have money; Cooper also had a cellphone and camera in his pants pocket. Authorities later found that Kouzaris' blood alcohol level was 0.243 and Cooper's was 0.214.

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