Court told of phone call by Florida British tourist murder accused Shawn Tyson


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The Independent Online

A teenager accused of killing two British tourists called his half brother from prison saying police had found bullet casings which could "f*** him up", a court heard today.

In the call, Shawn Tyson said police had found bullet casings connected to the shooting of Britons James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25.

The men were gunned down in the impoverished Newtown area of Sarasota, Florida, in April last year.

The friends, who were holidaying with Mr Cooper's family, drunkenly stumbled into a rundown public housing project known as The Courts.

Tyson, 17, denies two counts of first-degree murder. If convicted he faces life in jail without parole.

The court today heard a call made by Tyson from Sarasota County Jail which was recorded by police.

In the conversation with his half brother, played to the jury, the then 16-year-old said: "Somebody say they saw me out there...", and adding: "they found the bullets".

Asked about the discovery, he replied: "It's the only thing that's going to f*** me up."

The court also heard today that Tyson's DNA was found on James Cooper's trousers. The bloodstained clothes were shown to the jury.

Earlier, Detective John Todd told the court there could have been a "thousand different reasons" why the victims were found with their trousers pulled down.

But he said: "In this case, all the evidence pointed to an attempted robbery."

Detective Anthony Defrancisco told the court he had seen 14 similar cases involving victims' trousers being pulled down.

The court also heard today that Tyson told friend Marvin Gaines that he had killed Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, and Mr Cooper, from Hampton Lucy, Warwick.

The men were found shirtless and with their trousers round their thighs after being shot several times.

John Todd, lead detective in the case, was asked by prosecutor Karen Fraivillig: "Did Marvin Gaines also say that Shawn Tyson told him, 'I killed those two guys, you know those two bodies back there, I did that'?"

The detective said: "He said that Tyson escorted him into the apartment so that nobody else could hear and told him that he killed the two people at the back of the projects."

The court has heard that Mr Gaines told police Tyson had hidden the gun under his house then Mr Gaines had passed it to another friend.

Mr Gaines later led police to seven bullet casings buried in his yard.

At the opening of the trial in Sarasota yesterday, the court heard that Tyson allegedly boasted to a friend that he tried to rob them, then when they said they had no money he shot them.

Prosecutor Ed Brodsky said Tyson told one witness he and another male saw the two men as they walked by and they decided to rob them.

"When Shawn Tyson ... confronts the victims, they plead with Shawn Tyson to let them go, that they were drunk and that they were just trying to find their way home.

"They then tell Shawn Tyson that they don't have any money to give him."

He said Tyson boasted that he said: "Well, since you ain't got no money then I have something for your ass," and opened fire.

Both men were found with their wallets and cash - Mr Cooper had 63.45 dollars, while Mr Kouzaris had 62.05 dollars - and Mr Cooper still had his mobile phone and digital camera.

But defence lawyer Carolyn Schlemmer said few people had been honest with police in the case, and some had been offered plea deals, some had been threatened, and others given benefits to encourage them to testify.

She told Mr Todd: "Very few people in this case were initially truthful to you," which he said was "correct". Mr Todd admitted telling Mr Gaines it was in his interest to be on the side of the police rather than Tyson.

The court was told that one witness and friend of Tyson, Joshua Bane, was apparently not arrested over reports he made threats with a gun around the housing projects area. Mr Bane was also said to have told the alleged victim he was going to "end up like them two dead crackers (white people)".

The court heard that Mr Todd told Joshua Bane's brother Jermaine to stop "pulling his chain", or he would "f*** him up seriously".

The jury also heard that two witnesses, Wanda Farrior and Roger Shavers, who live opposite Tyson and claim to have seen him climb into his bedroom window after the shooting, were moved out of the area by police.

But the detective today told the court: "I don't consider it a benefit, I moved them for their safety."