A jury convicted two teenage girls of murder, lynching, robbery, malicious wounding and weapons charges in the mob beating death of a man in East Ocean View in July 2007.
The verdict came about 7:30 p.m. Friday after a four-day trial in Norfolk Circuit Court. Defense lawyers had argued that Nichelle Carter and Ieshia Rountree, both 17, had been present at the beating but had run away rather than participate in the crimes.
Jurors acquitted the girls of three additional weapons charges. They are scheduled to be sentenced in February. Because they were 15 and juveniles at the time of the attacks, a judge will sentence them rather than taking a recommendation from the jury.
Prosecutor James Entas argued to jurors that both Carter and Rountree, admitted members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang, took part in the beating of 19-year-old James Robertson, his cousin Timothy Minter, and their friend Desmond Ashe. The men were stripped and several people took turns kicking and stomping on them in a parking lot on 16th Bay Street near Pleasant Avenue. Robertson died; Minter and Ashe escaped. Police who first arrived on the scene testified that Robertson's head was so badly injured that it appeared he had been shot.
The lynching charge stems from there having been a mob attack. Two guns were used to pistol-whip the victims.
Eight others were also charged. Entas told jurors that although Carter and Rountree may not have struck the fatal blows, their participation made them equally guilty.
"No question there's a spectrum of responsibility on this team," Entas said. "But even the cheerleaders who were there cheering on are responsible."
Defense lawyers B. Thomas Reed and Emily Munn argued that blame for the attack could be laid on one of Entas' main witnesses: co-defendant Skyler Hayward. She has already pleaded guilty to murder and other charges but has yet to be sentenced.
Hayward was the only witness to testify that Carter and Rountree had taken part in the beating and robbery, Reed and Munn said. Meanwhile, the lawyers argued, Hayward had been the one to lure the three men and set them up for the robbery by her "homeys." She pointed to Carter and Rountree to deflect blame from herself, the lawyers said.
"Ieshia Rountree and Nichelle Carter were somewhere in that parking lot," Munn told jurors. "Just being in that parking lot cannot be enough for you to convict these young ladies."
"To hear each defense counsel, it sounds like the police and the commonwealth brought these two innocent girls in here and wasted your time," Entas told jurors. He walked to the defense table and pointed at the girls. "Those are not little angels. They are gang members who all participated."
Robertson's parents, who had come from Georgia for the trial, left before the verdict was announced.
Both Carter and Rountree cried at the verdict, said Commonwealth's Attorney's spokeswoman Amanda Howie. At least one spectator there to support the girls yelled out, Howie said. That woman was held in contempt of court.