Mario McNeill sentenced to death in Shaniya Davis case

May 28, 2013 9:00:00 PM PDT
Jurors in the Mario McNeill murder trial quickly decided Wednesday that he should be sentenced to death for the murder of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis.

The jury in the case reached its verdict within 30 minutes of receiving instructions from a judge following an one-sided closing argument from prosecutors for why McNeill should get the death penalty. The court then accepted the sentence.

Following the decision, the judge and Shaniya's father, Brad Lockhart, addressed McNeill.

Lockhart told McNeill from the witness stand that he made a mockery of the court by laughing and smirking.

"You didn't win," he said. "I'm just going to pray for you."

"You did not have to kill that child," the judge added.

McNeill replied, "I didn't."

The judge then told Shaniya's family, "I can't give you justice."

On Tuesday, McNeill went against the advice of his legal team and told the judge he did not want to present any evidence or call witnesses in the penalty phase of his trial.

Last week, they found the 33 year old guilty of first-degree murder.

McNeill was found not guilty of first-degree rape of a child, but guilty of first-degree kidnapping, human trafficking with a child victim, sexual servitude with a child victim, sexual offense of a child and indecent liberties with a child.

Prosecutors said in 2009, McNeill took the child from her Fayetteville home to sexually assault her at a motel in Sanford before killing her and dumping her body in an area known to be a place where deer hunters dump carcasses just off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett County line.

District Attorney Billy West thanked the judge, jury, and community for their interest in the case.

"The case had many twists and turns, and we just stuck to the evidence that we knew we wanted to present and how we wanted to present it, and we saw that through, and fortunately justice was done in the end," West said.

The state also asked that the jury not sympathize with McNeill for not having his defense team put on a case.

Normally in such cases, both the prosecution and the defense call witnesses and present evidence during a trial's penalty phase.

"As defense lawyers, we can't help but wonder would it have made a difference if we would have been able to present mitigating evidence. [McNeill] definitely went against the advice of counsel," defense attorney Butch Pope said. "Both Terry Alford and I are a little bit empty feeling right now. Certainly it was a disappointment."

An alternate juror spoke to ABC11 after McNeill was sentenced to death. The mother of three and first grade teacher called Wednesday a bittersweet day.

"It's a happy day because they reached the verdict that I would have reached. But it's also a really hard day to not feel sadness for his family, to feel sadness for her family, and just to feel like this is finally over," said Melanie Baker. "I hope that I'll get over the hurt and the anger that it happened. I hope that lessens, but I don't think the memory will."

McNeill arrived at Central Prison in Raleigh late Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutors have also charged Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Davis, with selling her daughter to McNeill to pay a drug debt. Davis hasn't been tried yet.

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