Crime

Man who at 16 beat disabled veteran to death resentenced to life

MARGARET BAKER/SUN HERALD 
 Shawn Labarron Davis will serve life in prison without parole in the 2002 beating death of a disabled veteran.
MARGARET BAKER/SUN HERALD Shawn Labarron Davis will serve life in prison without parole in the 2002 beating death of a disabled veteran.

PASCAGOULA -- A man who was 16 years old when he and others beat a disabled veteran to death for his Social Security check will spend the rest of his life in prison without any chance of parole.

Circuit Judge Dale Harkey said Shawn Labarron Davis did not express "one shred of remorse" for his role in the Dec. 31, 2002, kidnapping, robbery and beating death of Dorian Johnson, a Navy veteran and former instructor at Keesler Air Force Base.

Davis and others devised a plan to rob and kill Johnson, 52, who was partially paralyzed from a stroke.

"You beat him, you kicked him, you stomped on him, you broke six of his ribs," Harkey said. "You beat him so hard his brain bled. You viciously stabbed and sliced him up with a knife across the face, neck (and) ears as if he had been attacked by a wild animal.

"His brain hemorrhaged and he slowly bled to death in the woods where you left him to die. It took hours for him to die.

"Throughout the entire legal process, Mr. Davis, I have not seen or observed not one shred of remorse for the part you played in this crime."

Davis was indicted on a capital murder charge but in a plea agreement in 2004 pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of murder. He was sentenced to serve life in prison without parole.

He was eligible for resentencing because of a state Supreme Court ruling that offenders who were minors when they committed their crimes could not automatically be sentenced to life without parole until various factors were considered, such as their mental stability at the time of the crime.

Davis petitioned the court for a resentencing when the ruling was handed down.

At an earlier hearing, he'd offered a brief apology for his actions, saying he knew what he did was wrong.

"I realize I took a man from his wife and family," he said then.

Prior to imposing the new sentence, Harkey said he had reviewed trial transcripts, psychological tests and other evidence, including the testimony of his family and friends.

The judge acknowledged Davis was born to an alcoholic and drug-addicted single mother who had neglected him.

He also noted Davis was in trouble by age 13, and in youth jail for other crimes. He said a psychological test at the time described Davis as "moody, angry, defiant, anti-social and hostile."

At an earlier hearing, Davis' relatives said he was exposed to a life of crime as a boy because he grew up at a public housing complex notorious for drug dealing.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said a mental-health evaluation had showed Davis was competent to stand trial.

Since his imprisonment Davis has been cited for various infractions, such as fighting, and possessing handmade weapons, Harkey and Lawrence said. He also attacked a guard.

"I see no remorse here," Harkey said, "because I don't believe he has any."

Lawrence said this was the first murder case he'd handled after taking office in 2004.

"This crime was a senseless act of violence committed on a disabled American veteran," he said, adding Johnson's family is relieved Davis will stay in jail.

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