Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Jury Convicts Killer|of Auburn Athletes

(CN) - The accused killer of two Auburn University football players and a third Alabama man was convicted of capital murder by an Alabama jury.

Desmonte Leonard, 24, was found guilty in the shooting deaths of former Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips, as well as DeMario Pitts, of Opelika.

The June 2012 shooting occurred during a pool party at an apartment complex near the university.

The shootings spawned a gripping, closely watched manhunt that included a SWAT team swarming a house in Montgomery where Leonard was believed to be hiding. However, the house ultimately proved to be empty, and and Leonard later turned himself in.

Three other people were injured during the shooting, including another former Auburn football player, Eric Mack.

During the trial, Leonard's defense team argued the shootings were committed in self defense, a claim the jury rejected.

In addition to the capital murder conviction, Leonard was convicted of second degree assault, first degree assault and attempted murder.

Following the verdict, Leonard's attorney Susan James said the defense was disappointed with the outcome but would move on to the sentencing phase.

"We put everything we had into it," James said.

Leonard faces the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The jury will make a recommendation to Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III following testimony from friends and family members of Leonard.

"I think we've got good mitigation evidence, and I'm hopeful the jury will be receptive to that," said James. "We've been fighting so far, and we certainly aren't ready to give up."

The mass shooting shook the normally idyllic and peaceful college town, where football is king. In 2010, the Auburn football team won the BCS National Championship.

The shootings have also given rise to a number civil suits filed by the families of the victims.

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