FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Jurors in the trial of two men accused of beating a homeless man to death could begin deliberating the case Wednesday morning.
Thomas Daugherty and Brian Hooks are on trial on charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with three beatings of homeless men in January 2006. One of the victims, 45-year-old Norris Gaynor, died after he was attacked while he slept on a bench in Esplanade Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The state's case against Daugherty and Hooks is based largely on two key pieces of evidence. The first is surveillance video in which the two young men can be seen beating 60-year-old Jaques Pierre with bats in front of Florida Atlantic University in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The other is the testimony of William Ammons, an alleged accomplice in the beatings, who said he saw Hooks and Daugherty beat Gaynor to death. Ammons, who admitted that he shot the homeless man with a paintball gun, also faced life in prison, but he has struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against Hooks and Daugherty in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.
After Ammons testified on Monday about what he saw on the night of the beatings, a defense attorney went after him on the stand Tuesday. In several heated exchanges, defense attorneys attacked Ammons' credibility.
"Were you telling the truth then, Billy?" said Daugherty's attorney, Michael Gottlieb.
?The reason I said that..." Ammons began, before Gottlieb cut him off.
?Were you telling the truth Billy?" Gottlieb said.
?Yes, yes.? Ammons said.
Defense attorneys pointed out dozens of discrepancies in statements Ammons has given to police and accused him of lying on the stand to save his skin.
"If your testimony helps the state of Florida in this case, you're hoping for 10 years in Florida state prison, is that correct?" a defense attorney said.
"If my testimony's truthful, I'm hoping for 10," Ammons said. "That's the deal."
"When you tell 80 lies before you allegedly start telling the truth, how is anybody supposed to know what is the truth coming out of your mouth? Did the state subject you to any kind of test to discern whether or not you were telling the truth?" the attorney said.
"No," Ammons said.
Defense attorneys only presented two witnesses in their case. One was a friend who said Ammons told him he lied to police. The other was a Fort Lauderdale police officer who said the original "be on the lookout" alert for the beating suspects did not match the description of Hooks and Daugherty. That was important because defense attorneys claimed police tainted the case by releasing the surveillance video to the media before the witnesses could be interviewed.
If convicted, Hooks and Daugherty face life in prison.
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