BREAKING: Milwaukee Killer Of 13-Year-Old Black Neighbor Found Sane, Faces Life In Prison

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John Spooner, in court. Photo Miliwaukee Journal Sentinel.

John Spooner, in court. Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Breaking News: The elderly “gun nut” convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old Milwaukee boy was found sane by a Milwaukee jury on Friday. The determination — after brief jury deliberations — that John Spooner was mentally competent when he shot 13-year-old Darius Simmons on May 31, 2012, means Spooner faces a sentence of life in prison. He will be sentenced Monday afternoon. Stay on The UpTake for more.

John Spooner, the 76-year-old Milwaukee white man seen shooting his 13-year-old black neighbor to death on a video taken by his own home security camera, has been found guilty of the murder by a jury and now awaits another jury decision as to whether he is mentally competent and should be sentenced for the crime.

Thirteen-year-old Darius Simpson was shot to death by Spooner in front of his horrified mother
and older brother on May 31 of last year after Spooner confronted the youth on the sidewalk and accused him of stealing guns from Spooner’s home. Video of the shooting, shown Tuesday to the jurors, has shocked viewers across the nation, becoming public just days after the acquital of George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused of murdering Trayvon Martin.

The jury found Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide Wednesday, shifting the trial into its next phase: Determining whether Spooner was fit to be sentenced for the murder or was insane at the time of the shooting. Spooner took the witness stand Thursday, after being ruled competent to testify by a doctor, and defiantly asserted that he was within his legal rights in shooting Darius, who was retrieving garbage bins from the curb when he was confronted by his elderly neighbor and shot at point-blank range.

Video courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Caution: Video is graphic and disturbing.

Defense witness Basil Jackson, a psychologist, testified that Spooner was insane at the time of the killing, and that Spooner has suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety. Jackson said Spooner becomes very angry and loses control of his actions, citing an incident in which Spooner attempted to strangle his wife and another in which Spooner killed a kitten that his daughter had brought home.

Jackson said someone would have to be insane to kill a child.

But when Spooner took the stand, the defendant said the shooting was justified. Earlier Thursday, Spooner was removed from the courtroom after pounding his fist on the table and shouting. But after a recess and a court-ordered evaluation by a medical expert, Spooner returned and was permitted to testify.

Spooner said his house had been broken into several times and that he had shown video to police of two young black men walking near his home. The video showed two youths — with nothing in their hands — walking from the front of his neighbor’s house towards the back of the house, then back to the front. Police told Spooner there was no evidence that the youths in the video were his neighbors — Spooner testified he did not know his neighbors’ names — but Spooner was convinced that Darius was one of the thieves and took a pistol to confront Darius when he saw him on the sidewalk.

“I was very very angry and shot him,” Spooner told the jury. He said he shot Darius “for justice” and added, “I don’t feel that bad about shooting the boy. It was a fair trade — my guns for his life.”

— Tracey Pollock, reporting for The UpTake from Milwaukee

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