Christopher Gunn was arrested in the courthouse by Jackson police and charged with jury tampering after threatening a witness. (Source: JPD)
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
A jury has found Bennie Gunn guilty on all seven charges related to a five-day crime spree in 2010.
Gunn, 25, was convicted of capital murder, carjacking, possession of a firearm by a felon, two counts of armed robbery and two counts of aggravated assault.
At 2:48 p.m. Wednesday, the trial was sent to the jury. Jurors had nearly four days worth of testimonies to consider before making a decision. The twelve men and women sent Judge Bill Gowan a note Wednesday night requesting to come back in the morning, but they were told to continue deliberating.
Gunn showed no emotion as the jury first found him guilty of five charges that included, capital murder for the death of delivery man William Morris, carjacking, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of armed robbery. The judge reminded jurors there were two charges for a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Judge Bill Gowan asked jurors to reach a decision and after a few minutes, two more guilty verdicts were revealed.
"A mixture of emotions right now because I'm glad that justice was served, that this criminal is finally taken off the streets, but there are no winners in this situation," said Jackie Morris, sister of the murder victim.
Family members of William Morris were in the courtroom each day to watch the proceedings. His son was among them Wednesday night to hear the guilty verdict.
"We just thank God that it went the way it did. And every thing is well now," Peggy Bell, the aunt of the murder victim said.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Schuler Smith says he is happy the jury gave the Morris family and the other victims justice.
"Well it looks like there is only one possible sentence for him, and that's life in prison and we do expect for that sentence to be handed down," Smith said.
Gunn and his accomplice, Dante Evans led a crime spree in 2010 that included the shooting of a hotel desk clerk and the owners's 12-year-old son at the E.Com Lodge on I-55.
During closing arguments, prosecuting attorney's reflected on jury tampering charges that were filed while the trial was going on. Monday, Gunn's brother Christopher was arrested in the courthouse by Jackson police and charged with jury tampering after threatening a witness.
"Why does someone threaten someone?" said Prosecutor Lora Hunter. "Because they don't want whatever they got to say to be said. Bennie didn't want them to talk cause Bennie knew they were going to tell the truth and implicate Bennie."
Jackson police detective Eric Smith also reported that he was informed by a witness they were threatened by Gunn through a phone call from jail the weekend before she was to testify.
Monday's testimonies included a Jackson police detective who interviewed both Gunn and his alleged partner in crime Dante Evans. Prosecutors played the audio recording of Evans' interview.
In the interview, Evans described his involvement in both the murder of a delivery man and the E.Com Lodge robbery and shooting two days later. Evans refused, however, to give the name of his accomplice also involved in both crimes. But when they interviewed Gunn's girlfriend, she gave up more information.
"Her boyfriend Bennie Gunn told her that he too was present when Dante shot Mr. Morris," said Jackson Police Department Detective Eric Smith.
However, a witness from the day of the murder identified both Gunn and Evans as being in her neighborhood, not far from the crime scene. The Nike shoes she described were later recovered from Gunn's possession.
"She specifically told us the shoes were black Nike tennis shoes or black tennis shoes with a green symbol," explained Smith.
Despite the shoes linking Gunn to the crime, the defense emphasized the lack of physical evidence connecting Gunn to the murder of the delivery man. But Jackson Police officers say Gunn made a statement while waiting to be transported to a holding cell.
"His statement was pretty much 'tell his wife and kids I'm sorry. It wasn't supposed to happen that way'," said Maurice Kendrick, former Jackson Police detective.
Two days after the murder, the pair allegedly robbed the e.com lodge where the desk clerk and 12-year-old were also shot. The crime scene investigator showed jurors pictures of the scene and described what he saw that night.
"We observed a footprint on the exterior of that door. We processed that door for latent fingerprints as well as the front entrance door," explained Patrick Drake, Jackson Police Department.
That description matches up to the account Dante Evans gave in his interview. The girlfriends of the pair say they had all been staying in a room there prior to the robbery.
Gunn's defense attorney is already planning an appeal.
"He's entitled to an appeal, the proper paperwork will be filed after he's sentenced and I guess we'll proceed from there", said Aafram Sellers, Gunn's attorney.
Gunn has already been sentenced to 45 years in prison for a carjacking in Philadelphia where he tried to outrun police. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18.
Gunn's accomplice, Dante Evans, pleaded guilty in April. He was sentenced to life without parole.
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