Florida student murder trial jury out

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JURORs have begun their deliberations in the trial of a teenager accused of murdering two former Sheffield University students in Florida last year.

Shawn Tyson is charged with two counts of first degree murder after allegedly trying rob, then shooting dead James Kouzaris, aged 24, and James Cooper, 25, in Sarasota.

The friends were holidaying with Mr Cooper’s parents, and had been out in central Sarasota when they drunkenly walked into a housing estate in the early hours last April.

Tyson declined to give evidence in his defence. When asked by Judge Rick De Furia if he wished to remain silent, the 17-year-old - 16 at the time of the shootings - said: “Yes, sir.”

The court has heard Tyson allegedly told friend Marvin Gaines that he did kill the men, before giving him shell casings and a gun to bury. The court also heard DNA matching Tyson’s profile was found on a sample taken from Mr Cooper’s jeans.

A witness, Jessica Cunningham, told the court that nine days before the murders Tyson pulled a gun on her twice and on one occasion said: “I’ll kill you.”

Tyson was arrested, but released on April 15 - the day before the killings.

Another friend, Latrece Washington, said Tyson also told her he had killed the men, and described one of the tourists crying for his life as his friend was shot, then he was gunned down himself.

But the defence has claimed many witnesses had given evidence in exchange for lesser charges as part of ‘plea deals’, while others had received benefits to encourage them to testify.