A jury has recommended life without parole for Westley Devon Harris in the shooting deaths of six members of his girlfriend's family at their Crenshaw County farm.
The jury voted seven-to-five for the recommendation Thursday, after hearing pleas for mercy and claims of mental retardation. The recommendation is not binding on Circuit Judge Ed McFerrin, who will make the final decision later. He can go along with the jury or sentence Harris to be executed.
The jury made its recommendation two day after convicting Harris, now 25, in the slaughter of then-girlfriend Janice Ball's family. Her grandmother, parents and three teenage brothers were killed at their Rutledge home on August 26th, 2002. Ball, who was 16 at the time, became the prosecution's chief witness during the trial. At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors said the magnitude of the crime demanded the death penalty. But defense attorney Charlotte Tesmer urged the jury to be merciful. She said one more death would not bring the victims back. Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for July 13th.