One of three teenagers who fatally beat one homeless man and severely injured two others in a booze and pot-fueled rampage will get a new trial because a judge erred in his jury instructions before the teen was convicted of murder, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Thomas Daugherty was 17 when he and two friends spent a night in January 2006 attacking homeless men in Fort Lauderdale with a baseball bat, a golf club and a rake. A Florida Atlantic University surveillance camera captured one of the attacks and its national broadcast provoked widespread outrage.
Norris Gaynor was sleeping on a bench when the teens found him and used the bat and rake to shatter his skull and face, crack his ribs and cause internal injuries. An autopsy showed that his skull was crushed and broken pieces of bone cut into his brain, according to court documents.
Daugherty was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2008. That sentence was reduced to 40 years in 2012 because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime. Now he'll get a new trial because the Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the judge improperly instructed the jury on the possibility of finding Daugherty guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Daugherty didn't deny his involvement in the crime, but said he never meant to kill the 45-year-old Gaynor.
"I wasted a human life. I treated him as less than a human and I'm sorry," Daugherty said through tears at his sentencing hearing.
Daugherty's co-defendant, Brian Hooks, also was convicted of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 30 years after a judge determined he had a lesser role in the attack. William Ammons, who fired a paintball gun at Gaynor during the beating, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years. Hooks and Ammons were 18 at the time of the attacks.
Gaynor was the second of three victims. The other two survived severe injuries. The teens were drinking and smoking marijuana when they decided to drive around looking for homeless people to attack.