MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Milwaukee man was convicted Wednesday of fatally shooting his 13-year-old neighbor whom he suspected had broken into his home and stolen weapons. The trial now shifts into a second phase in which the defense will try to prove the 76-year-old defendant was mentally ill at the time of the shooting.

A jury deliberated for about an hour before finding John Henry Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide. Surveillance video from Spooner’s own security cameras showed him confronting Darius Simmons in May 2012, pointing a gun at him from about 6 feet away and shooting him in the chest.

Spooner had entered two pleas to the homicide charge: not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. That set up the trial to be conducted in two phases: the first to determine whether he was guilty of the homicide, and if so, a second to determine whether he was mentally competent at the time.

Spooner’s defense attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, said he has an expert who will testify that Spooner was suffering from mental disease that prevented him from knowing right from wrong.

Gimbel conceded from the outset that his client shot Darius. However, he argued that Spooner did not intend for the gunshot to be fatal.

“There was no mental investment in what he was doing,” Gimbel said.

The second phase of the trial operates under slightly different rules. The burden of proof shifts to the defense, which only has to prove “clear and convincing evidence,” instead of the stricter standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In addition, a verdict requires agreement from only 10 jurors, not unanimity from all 12.

Spooner’s surveillance video provides a clear view of what happened. Spooner emerges from his house and confronts the teen, who is retrieving his family’s garbage cart from the street. Spooner points a gun at Darius, who quickly moves back a few steps. Spooner then exchanges words with Darius’ mother, who’s standing on her porch out of view of the camera, and Spooner briefly points the gun in her direction. Moments later, Spooner points the gun back at the boy standing a couple of feet in front of him. He fires, hitting Darius in the chest.

The teen stumbles and runs away, and Spooner fires a second shot that misses. He appears to attempt a third shot but the gun jams.

Darius’ mother, Patricia Larry, testified that she chased her son to where he collapsed in the street, cradling him in her arms as he died.

“I pulled his shirt up and I (saw) he had a bullet hole in his chest,” she testified tearfully. “He took one more breath and that’s it.”

Spooner paced up and down the sidewalk until police arrived a few minutes later. Police officer Richard Martinez testified that he was handcuffing Spooner when Spooner acknowledged, “Yeah, I shot him.”

During closing arguments, Gimbel seized upon that statement as an indication that his client didn’t necessarily mean to fire a fatal shot.

“He didn’t say, ‘I killed the kid.’ He didn’t try to explain anything about the circumstances,” Gimbel said. “That tells us this man was involved in an act where was not very much mental investment in what he was doing.”

But prosecutor Mark Williams said it’s impossible to watch the video without realizing that Spooner knew exactly what he was doing. He pointed out that Spooner confronted Darius, aimed the gun at his heart and pulled the trigger twice.

“How is that not intent to kill?” he asked. “You can see the intent. Look at him (Darius) holding his chest. Look how close they are together. It’s point-blank range. Darius runs away and he shoots again.”

(Photo: AP)

11 thoughts on “Wis. Man, 76, Guilty in Fatal Shooting of Teen, Darius Simmons

  1. Ruth O'hara on said:

    Spooner is an animal who should be punished to the fullest extent of the law! Being old isn’t an excuse for vigilante misdeeds. He figured he’s so close to death he could just do what he’s always wanted to do…what he probably used to do when he was younger to innocent Colored people before the Civil Rights actions took hold and he could get away with it. Like that line from Malcom X movie: ‘There’s nothing more dangerous in the world is a man with nothing to lose’.

  2. Joe Ann Wilson-James on said:

    I am happy Darius Simmonn’s murderer was found guity of murder. His mother got justice in this case,
    although this verdict will never bring her son back or heal her pain. The Defenss attorney needs
    to be disbarred becasue of the spind he put on this outright murder of this child. His claim that his
    cliant did not mean to kill Darius when he shoot him, is just plain sickening and a slap in the face of
    Darius’ Mother, the jury and any other person that was in the courtroom.

  3. Soldier on said:

    This is real Murder and not self-defense, and hopefully this can register with those who are looking to kill Zimmerman because the Liberal Media focused on the wrong story. Rest in Peace Darius SImmons, but I can’t say the same about Trayvon because he looked like the attacker in the other case. If some of you looked passed skin color, you would realize these are two totally different cases. Yes, a gun resulted in the Death of both, but if you want the truth you would most likely end up dead by another black man than a hispanic or a white. I believe the Death/Murder rate in black on black crime is a ridiculous 94 percent or something around those lines.

    • Soldier said, “Yes, a gun resulted in the Death of both, but if you want the truth you would most likely end up dead by another black man than a hispanic or a white. I believe the Death/Murder rate in black on black crime is a ridiculous 94 percent or something around those lines.”

      Where did you get your stats on Death/Murder rate in black on black crime??

      • Tired of Mountain Dew Drinking Hillbillies on said:

        You want get an honest reply Mike. That was pulled straight out of his backside.

  4. Honestly on said:

    The cave n!@@er belongs in a cage. The vile animal Zimmerman should also have been caged. The all white dumb cave n!@@er jury let this beast get away with murdering Trayvon. Karma will one day rip Zimmerman’s lying tongue out. They should have never been let out of the caves of Europe.

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