MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Montgomery County jury has convicted Juan Daniels of capital murder and attempted murder.
Daniels was charged with capital murder for the death of Aiden Howard, 6, as well as attempted murder for trying to running over his own stepson, Kendarious Arrington, on Feb. 12, 2015.
The sentence is automatic life without the possibility of parole.
"I am very happy that he will never walk the streets of Montgomery again," said Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. "Montgomery is a little safer now that he has been removed from our community."
The state presented evidence to the jury that Daniels and his stepson, Kendarious Arrington, had been in a physical fight. In turn Daniels attempted to hit Arrington with his SUV and instead fatally struck Aiden Howard.
The state and defense rested on Wednesday morning after calling more than a dozen witnesses combined. Closing arguments began at 1:45 p.m.
The state focused its closing arguments on intent.
"The reason you are here in this box is because that man, Juan Daniels, did his dead level best to kill Kendarious Arrington," prosecutor Ben McGough told the jury, pointing toward the defendant.
McGough argued there was no question that Daniels attempted to kill Arrington. The state told the jury Daniels was behind the wheel of the SUV that claimed Howard's life because the video showed Daniels walking away after the impact.
The prosecutor reminded the jury that Daniels and Arrington had a history of not getting along and that night they had a physical fight. Daniels left but returned 10 minutes later and saw Arrington standing in the door. The video showed Daniels make a three-point turn, center his 2004 GMC Yukon SUV with the apartment, and plow through the apartment in an attempt to hit Arrington.
Arrington was able to move before the point of impact. McGough told the jury if Arrington had tripped or not been fast enough he would be dead.
"Juan Daniels doesn't get the benefit of the doubt that Kendarious Arrington was fast enough to get away," McGough explained. "The victim just got lucky, he was lucky enough to get out of the way."
McGough reminded the jury of the black box findings from Daniels' car, which showed the car speeding up as it went down the street - slamming into the apartment doing nearly 40 miles per hour, showed intent.
As for capital murder, McGough stated the victim was less than 14-years-old, which is a statute for the charge. He also explained that the intent follows the murder weapon, giving the example if someone attempted to shoot a person but fatally shot someone nearby instead, that is capital murder. In this case, the murder weapon was Daniels' SUV.
The state told the jury that Daniels' flight after the wreck was also evidence of intent, explaining Daniels was in the wind for a month before U.S. Marshals arrested him in Georgia.
"He did what he intended to do," McGough stated. "He killed that little boy."
Attorney Bill Blanchard gave closing arguments for the defense, immediately sowing seeds of doubt into the state's evidence.
"The state has bitten off more than it can chew with this capital murder charge," Blanchard told the jury.
Blanchard argued that the state is asking the jury to assume intent through circumstantial evidence. He explained circumstantial evidence isn't always correct, giving an example of a wet street where anyone could assume through circumstantial evidence that it rained - when in fact the street was wet due to the city's street sweepers cleaning the roadway.
Blanchard referenced evidence of the black box in Daniel's SUV, showing the brake lights were engaged one second prior to driving through the building, despite also showing an increase in speed at the same time.
"They can't say the brakes weren't engaged," Blanchard stated.
The defense also reminded jurors of testimony from a neuropsychologist that testified Daniels had injuries to the frontal lobe of his brain, likely due to childhood abuse, concussions from football, or self-destructive acts including suicide attempts.
Blanchard told the jury he didn't want them to find Daniels guilty, but if they did, he asked them to consider a lesser included charges of reckless murder or reckless manslaughter.
"Capital murder cannot be based on a reckless act, it must be based on an intent," Blanchard stated.
Closing arguments ended at 3:05 p.m. and Judge Truman Hobbs, Jr charged the jury, which began deliberations at 3:25 p.m.
Daniels previously served time for beating a chained dog named Louis Vuitton before setting him on fire. Louis survived the horrific injuries and was later adopted. The dog turned 15 in November.