Death sentence recommended for killer on victim's birthday - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Death sentence recommended for convicted killer on victim's birthday

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ANNISTON - AL -

Kevin Thompson's mother walked out of the courtroom Wednesday, looked up above and pointed to the heavens and said, "Happy birthday, Kevin."

Thompson would have turned 32 on Wednesday, but he was murdered in April 2011.

A jury recommended the death penalty for his killer, 24-year-old Nicholas Daniel Smith, just after 9 a.m.  The jurors deliberated for two hours Tuesday afternoon and for about 30 additional minutes Wednesday morning to determine the punishment for Smith, the first man convicted of kidnapping, robbing, and killing Thompson.

Thompson's mother, Frances Curry, asked the jury Monday to recommend death for Smith instead of life in prison without parole.  Eleven jurors chose capital punishment, exceeding the 10 required for that sentence.  Seven jurors are needed for a recommendation of life imprisonment.

"I do want to say to the jury that I appreciate everything they did," Curry said.  "It was not an easy decision and it was not an easy decision for me to ask for that.  I wanted justice to be done."

Some jurors cried as the foreman announced the sentencing recommendation.  Several of them hugged Curry and her daughter, Rena, on their way out of the courtroom.

" Lives have been torn apart, people are in tears.  Kevin was born of an imperfect mom.  He lived in an imperfect world, and he died an imperfect death," Curry said.

"This is setting the record straight that we have choices and we need to make those choices be the right choice.  We don't need to do things and think they are over with.  My life will never be the same," she said.

"Their lives will never be the same, and the other families as well.  I pray for them and I wish them the best but I still want justice for Kevin."

Two other men are also charged with capital murder in the case.  District attorney Brian McVeigh said the trial of Tyrone Thompson--who is not related to Kevin--should begin in six months, and Jovon Gaston will be next summer.  McVeigh said there are three other capital cases in Calhoun County which he hopes to prosecute in the next 12 months.

"I respect the fact that [the death penalty] was a hard verdict for them to reach," McVeigh said about the jurors in this case.

"It should be hard to condemn someone to death.  It should be something that we do for a select few people.  This is the type of case where the death penalty should apply," he said.

"I appreciate their verdict.  I believe that was the correct verdict.  I believe this is evidence that our system still works."

Nicholas Smith's aunt, Arleen Pollard, was the only member of his family to attend Wednesday's court proceedings.

"His mother and brother are too distraught and couldn't face it, so I guess I will be the one to go and tell them the news," Pollard said.

She spoke briefly with Thompson's mother after the trial to say how sorry she was for the loss, but said she remains hopeful the appeal system will work in her nephew's favor.

"I believe in my heart it will be overturned.  Nicholas is not a murderer, not a murderer, not at all," Pollard said.

Before Smith is officially sentenced to death row, the court will do a pre-sentence investigation.   A probation and parole officer will meet with him and evaluate his criminal history and evidence submitted in the case.  A judge will review the findings for Smith's formal sentencing September 3.

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