By Bryanna Fissori
The jury trial of 22 year old DeMario Ware for the July 2009 murder of boxing champion Vernon Forrest (41-3-0) has concluded with a guilty verdict in Fullerton County, Georgia. The suspect was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He has now been sentenced to life in prison for the murder charge.
Ware asserted his innocence on the murder charges, but confessed to pointing a gun at Forrest and making demands for the boxer’s gold, championship ring and diamond Rolex watch. This confession warrants guilt for the aggravated assault, armed robbery and firearm possession charges and left the murder charge as the big question mark.
The robbery took place at a gas station in the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Southwest Atlanta. Accompanying the boxer was the 11 year old son of a friend. The child was reportedly in the convenience store when the events were initiated. After Ware received possession of the items he demanded Forrest ran after him and Ware was able to get away and hide in a nearby apartment building, firing shots as he was chased. Forrest also retrieved his own handgun which contained only one bullet. He fired it once.
According to authorities, Forrest then walked back to the gas station where he had originally stopped to put air in his tires. He was then confronted by another man named to be Charman Sinkfield and allegedly the man who fired the seven shots which took Forrest’s life. There is also a third suspect by the name of Jquate Crews who is accused of being the getaway driver who took both Ware and Sinkfield from the scene. Crews and Sinkfield also await trial on nearly identical charges.
Officers on the case received a lucky break in indentifying the three suspects who made several mistakes in their escape, the first of which was being caught on the convenience store security camera which captured virtually the entire event. Ware was also caught in a close-up by the security camera of the apartment building he hid in and later showed him getting into the “getaway car.” Several people living in the neighborhood recognized Ware and he turned himself in the day after Forrest’s funeral. He was only mildly helpful as he only new the other suspects by their street names which were “Quante” and “Twin.” Additional leads from people in the community eventually led to the arrests.
There is no contention that the bullets that killed Forrest came from Ware’s gun, but as alleged accomplice to felony- murder he can be charged equally for the crime so long as his participation in the felony is reasonably associated. In order to find Ware guilty of the murder charge the Prosecution had to prove that the shooting occured during the commission of Ware’s robbery which was a felony offense. Linking it to the confrontation with Sinkfield, it was considered a continuation under the Georgia Crimes and Offenses Code.
Defense Attorney Micheal Mann contended that this is the case as he explained to the jury, “If it was his intention [to kill Vernon], why didn’t he step out of the doorway and shoot Vernon?” Mann said, referring to video footage from an apartment building security camera showing Forrest run past a hidden Ware. There has to be some connection between the murder and the armed robbery. There’s no plausible connection. They didn’t go there with any murderous plan.”
As with any criminal trial, images are everything and the attorneys are pitted artist against artist with a competition the results in colorful verbal sparring. The Defense portrayed Ware as a frightened unwilling participant, who was unaware of the intentions of the other suspects, while Prosecutor Peter Johnson stated to the jury, “Mr. Mann (Defense attorney) told you DeMario Ware was a scared little boy. When he points a .9 mm at someone and demands what they have, and is running down the street shooting at the person chasing him, that’s not a child. Those are the actions of a grown man.”
Closing arguments were heard on Monday and the jury finished deliberations on Thursday, though the verdict is controversial given the complexity of the law. Prosecutor Mann stated, “The felony murder is used abusively by the state of GA when (prosecutors) are unable to get a conviction of murder.”
To receive a felony murder conviction the state had to prove that the defendant committed the underlying felony, and that it was foreseeable that anybody committing that felony could cause someone to lose their life, even if the death was unintentional.
The rule is difficult to establish because it requires the jury determine when the original felony begins and ends. In this case the defense contended that it ceased when Ware assumed a position of hiding away from the scene. The prosecution argued that the confrontation with Sinkfield was a continuation of the robbery. Factors that made this even more difficult to sort out included the fact that Ware did fire shots at Forrest while he was being chased and that the two men shared a get away vehicle and met after the event.
Given the difficult set of facts and instructions the jury’s verdict stands, though the defense is planning to file an appeal. In the meantime the remaining to suspect will prepare for their day in court as they also face murder charges. Sinkfield will be facing the possibility of the death penalty.
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