Jury finds Johnston guilty of all counts
A jury will now decide whether Kemar Johnston will live or die for the torture slayings of Jeffrey Sosa and his uncle Alexis Sosa nearly four years ago in Cape Coral.
After five hours of deliberations during two days, the jury unanimously voted to convict Johnston of two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the October 6, 2006 killings.
Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese polled the jury, asking each one whether they agreed with the verdict: they all answered yes.
He dismissed the jury, but not until advising them not to speak with anyone about the case because they will return Feb. 15 to decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life without parole.
A status conference for set for Feb. 8.
Only one of the Sosas’ family members was in the courtroom when a bailiff announced the verdict: guilty of all charges.
Johnston was charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Johnston’s mother and father and several other family members remained stoic when the verdict was read. Johnston showed no emotion.
None of the family members would comment after the verdict, nor would the prosecution or defense attorneys.
Jeffrey Sosa, 14, and his uncle, Alexis Sosa, 18, had attended a birthday party at a Cape Coral duplex where they were beaten, zapped with a Taser, cut with a knife and hog-tied. They were driven to an industrial area in North Cape Coral and shot. Cape Coral fire units responding to a reported car fire found the bodies. Alexis Sosa’s body was found in the trunk of the car. He had been burned.
The defense has brought out during trial that many other people – witnesses who were either at the party or connected to evidence presented in the case — have not been charged, many pieces of evidence were not tested for DNA, bullets were not compared to guns and the lead investigator, Det. Kurt Grau, had worked only two or three other homicide cases.
The prosecution countered there was enough evidence to convict and conceded the investigation was sloppy, but not enough to warrant the jury to return a not guilty verdict.
Ten people were arrested and charged in connection with the Sosas’ deaths.
Roderick Washington and Ashley Toye were found guilty following separate trials. Washington received four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years in prison, and Toye was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Melissa Rivera, Iriana Santos, Alexis Fernandez, Cody Roux and Michael Balint have each pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and will receive prison sentences varying between 14 years and 26 years in exchange for their testimony.
Kenneth Lopez’s trial is scheduled for Feb. 1.
Paul Nunes, who pleaded guilty in August for a reduced sentence of 40 years in prison, recently was appointed new counsel. On Dec. 28, he requested that his plea deal, which required him to testify against Johnston and Lopez, be withdrawn. He still testified, even though his request to withdraw his plea has yet to be ruled on.