Jalen Williams, 22, has been found guilty of capital murder in the slaying of Lamont Hayes, who was shot during a home invasion while his family was in the house.
Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois sentenced Williams to life without parole Friday. A Harrison County jury had deliberated about 1 1/2 hours before convicting him in the July 22, 2014, slaying on Carson Drive in Gulfport.
The jury believed testimony that Williams and co-defendant Rashad Johnson went to the home to rob Hayes. The 41-year-old Hayes was there with his wife and their three children.
Hayes’ children were 2, 6 and 13 at the time. The youngest child was asleep with Hayes when the intruders confronted his other children, found his wife taking a shower, and then confronted Hayes.
Williams and Johnson wore masks as they entered the home in the Olivet subdivision about 11:30 p.m. and demanded Hayes give them money, District Attorney Joel Smith said.
Gulfport police identified the pair after Williams sent a text to a friend that said “home invasion gone wrong.”
Johnson, 19, pleaded guilty March 16 to first-degree murder. His sentencing was postponed so he could testify for the prosecution at Williams’ trial. Johnson faces life in prison.
The state did not seek the death penalty because of the men’s ages at the time of the killing. Williams was 19. Johnson was 17.
“There are no winners in this case,” Smith said. “We are thankful the victim’s family was able to receive justice this week for their loved one. He was a father, son, husband and friend and was taken from them because of the senseless, selfish acts of these two defendants.”
Hayes was known for helping others in the community and had recently helped put on a charity basketball game.
Johnson had said it was Williams who brought the gun. He said Hayes had fought back and had pinned Williams on the floor. Johnson said Williams slid the gun to him during the scuffle, telling him to get Hayes off of him.
Hayes was shot twice with a .40-caliber gun. He had wounds in both legs and died in a few hours of a gunshot wound to his groin.
Smith said police found him near the door of his home and saw signs of a struggle in a bedroom, hallway and the living room.
Prosecutors said Williams at first denied being there, but later admitted he and Johnson had gone to the house to rob Hayes.
Defense attorney Michael Crosby, in closing arguments, asked the jury to find Williams not guilty, saying there was insufficient evidence to show Williams’ involvement. Crosby also maintained the investigation was incomplete, Smith said.
ADA Matthew Burrell, who prosecuted the case with ADA Robert McCormick, had told the jury “the mountains of evidence” made it clear the only proper verdict was guilty of capital murder, Smith said.
Family members became emotional as they testified of how Hayes fought back, Smith said.