The mother of a man killed in north Baton Rouge more than four years ago walked out of a Baton Rouge courtroom Friday afternoon relieved that the 23-year-old accused of killing her son was convicted of second-degree murder.
“It’s been a long time coming and I am pleased with the verdict. Yes!” Rynett Spooner said outside state District Judge Chip Moore’s courtroom moments after the verdict was announced. The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for more than three hours.
“I’ve been going through a lot,” Spooner said. “It was worth it.”
Daniel Smith’s mother said an East Baton Rouge Parish jury’s unanimous conviction of Jarvis McKinley Fleming was well worth the wait. Fleming faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Moore will sentence Fleming on Feb. 11.
Fleming, of Baton Rouge, who is also accused of murder in a 2013 slaying, was convicted of gunning down the 23-year-old Smith shortly before 3 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2010, on Osage Street near Plank Road.
Smith, who was a manager at a McDonald’s restaurant in Baton Rouge, was shot eight times and found in his running car.
Prosecutor Jermaine Guillory reminded the jury Friday that Fleming’s DNA was found on spent bullet casings collected at the crime scene, and the 9 mm pistol that fired the bullets was found inside Fleming’s home two weeks after the killing. A bullet recovered from Smith’s body also was fired from that gun.
“Science doesn’t lie. People do,” Guillory said, referring to Fleming’s police interview in which he denied being at the scene and shooting Smith.
Guillory also asked jurors to remember that Fleming told police he had let someone borrow his gun, but he couldn’t provide police with the person’s name.
Fleming’s attorney, James Rothkamm, argued the state failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Rothkamm questioned why police used the same cotton swab to test all five shell casings, which he conceded turned up his client’s DNA.
“It proves that he touched that shell casing at one point in time. It doesn’t prove he was there on Oct. 23, 2010,” he said.
Rothkamm also noted that another man’s DNA was found on a Sprite can just two feet from one of the shell casings.
“How do you explain his DNA?” Rothkamm asked.
“There is a fundamental difference between a Sprite can and shell casings,” Guillory answered in his rebuttal argument.
Fleming also is charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 2, 2013, fatal shooting of Donald Ray Walls, 26. At the time of the Walls shooting, Fleming was free on $80,000 bond and awaiting trial in the death of Smith.
In light of the life sentence that Fleming now faces in Smith’s killing, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Friday his office will make a decision after the sentencing on whether or not to prosecute him in the 2013 case.
In the shooting death of Walls, two other men — Julius Thomas and Darren Paul — also are charged with second-degree murder.
Police have said Walls was shot dead during a drug deal in a north Baton Rouge mobile home park.
Police say Fleming drove Thomas and Paul to the trailer park to sell marijuana to Walls and another man, then drove an injured Paul to a hospital after Paul was shot.
As part of the conditions of bail in 2010, Moore had ordered Fleming to wear a GPS tracking ankle bracelet, according to online court records. But when deputies arrested Fleming in the 2013 shooting, they found that his monitoring bracelet had been removed and discarded.