EATONTON, Georgia (AP) – A Georgian prisoner convicted of murder in the 2017 murder of two guards on a transport bus was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday without parole.
After taking just a few hours last week to convict Donnie Rowe of malicious murder and other crimes, jurors were unable to agree on whether to be sentenced to death, media reported. Putnam County Superior Court Chief Justice Brenda Trammell then sentenced Rowe to life in prison without parole. A death sentence requires a unanimous jury.
The jury included seven women and five men who had been taken to Eatonton in Grady County, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the south, due to pre-trial publicity. They deliberated for three hours Tuesday and five hours Wednesday, according to media reports.
Rowe and his fellow inmate Ricky Dubose have been charged with killing Sgt. Christopher Monica and Staff Sgt. Curtis Billue as he escaped from a prison transfer bus in southeast Atlanta in June 2017. They were arrested in Tennessee days later.
Dubose is to be tried separately and also faces the death penalty.
Security cameras on the bus recorded the violent escape while around 30 other prisoners witnessed the killings from the back of the bus.
Rowe’s defense attorneys had argued that he was unaware that Dubose would kill the guards and should be spared the death penalty. District Attorney Wright Barksdale had argued that Rowe had instigated the escape plot and that the crime had taken the two men to complete.
In addition to the security video, jurors got a direct glimpse of the courthouse parking lot of the bus where the murders took place. They also heard of the man whose inmates stole the car just after fleeing the bus, as well as an owner in Rutherford County, Tennessee, who grabbed a pistol and called 911 after seeing Rowe and Dubose heading for his house. He testified that the exhausted fugitives went to bed and surrendered.
Rowe did not testify. His defense attorneys played audio and video of Dubose’s jury, claiming he was the one who shot the two officers. The defense lawyers then finished their case.
Rowe was already serving a life sentence without parole for an armed robbery conviction when the guards were killed four years ago.
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