Trial begins for Fla. teen Shawn Tyson, accused of killing two British tourists
The 17-year-old is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for allegedly killing British tourists James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, last April.. Attorneys selected a jury of nine women and five men Wednesday and opening statements in the case began Thursday morning.
By late Thursday morning, prosecutors had already called three witnesses to testify. Defense attorneys countered that there was no evidence tying Tyson to the crime and that witnesses testifying against him were not credible.
The two men were dining in downtown Sarasota on April 15, 2011. The pair went to two bars and left on foot after several drinks. Prosecutor Ed Brodsky said Tyson told a friend that the men were lost and that he then tried to rob them. The tourists told Tyson they didn't have any money and pleaded for their lives.
Brodsky said Tyson told his friend: "Since you ain't got no money, then I have something for your a--."
The tourists' bodies were found shirtless on the street. Both men still had their wallets and did in fact have money; Cooper also had a cellphone and camera in his pants pocket.
Defense attorney Carolyn Schlemmer said during her opening statement that there is nothing to tie Tyson to the shootings - no murder weapon was ever recovered. She added that many of the people slated to testify against Tyson were either pressured by authorities, made deals with authorities in exchange for information on Tyson, or were unreliable drug users and convicted felons. Other witnesses lied to law enforcement, Schlemmer said.
"No witnesses will testify that they saw Mr. Tyson shoot Mr. Cooper and Mr. Kouzaris," Schlemmer told the jury. "Keep an open mind."
Tyson is being held at the Sarasota County Jail without bail. If convicted, he could get life in prison.
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