A former U.S. Marine who fatally shot a friend in the back after a night of drinking in 2016 was convicted Thursday night of murder, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office said.
The jury deliberated about 90 minutes before finding Laurence McKee guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Justin Scott on Aug. 27, 2016.
McKee, 29, faces a mandatory lifetime prison term when Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier imposes his sentence Feb. 25.
Scott, a tugboat captain, was killed in the doorway of McKee's 7th Ward apartment in the 1700 block of North Broad Street. McKee wept during a 911 call and told police he had no choice but to shoot after his friend had attacked and choked him.
Investigators and a forensic pathologist, however, concluded that Scott had been killed by a single gunshot to his back, fired from a distance of several feet. Jurors rejected McKee's defense that he fired facing his alleged attacker and that the bullet had ricocheted into Scott's back.
Telephone text messages recovered by detectives indicated the men had gone out drinking together earlier in the night, then wound up back at McKee's apartment, where the fatal shooting took place. And while McKee appeared to cry while relating information to the 911 operator, he was recorded cursing at the dead man after he apparently thought he had hung up.
Assistant District Attorneys Jason Napoli and Mike Trummel prosecuted the case. McKee was represented by Jerry Settle and Eusi Phillips.
McKee's relatives vowed to appeal the conviction.
"We are going to fight with everything we have in us to get him out of there, every resource, everything we have. He didn't have a fair trial," said Alyssa McKee, Laurence's cousin.
Among other issues, McKee's family disputed Napoli's assertion to jurors that McKee had been dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps. They provided a form which showed that he received an honorable discharge in 2011.
The document could not be immediately verified with the Marine Corps.
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