A Jacksonville man accused of multiple murders has avoided Death Row for the third time but will spend the rest of his life in prison for multiple murders.
Prosecutors last week dropped a first-degree murder charge against 29-year-old DeShawn Leon Green in the death of Bryan Clemons, 23, who was gunned down in April 2009 as he sat in a chair in a home on West 13th Street.
Green has already been convicted of first-degree murder in two other cases and sentenced to life without parole in each.
Defense attorney Shawn Arnold declined to get into details of why the charge was dropped.
State attorney spokeswoman Jackelyn Barnard said prosecutors were confident Green could be convicted in Clemons’ murder but chose to drop the case because of how an acquittal might affect his previous two convictions. Prosecutors introduced evidence about the Clemons shooting in both of the previous trials, and if Green somehow was acquitted of his murder it would give his attorneys grounds to appeal the previous convictions, Barnard said.
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Police and prosecutors have said Clemons’ killing was the result of an ongoing dispute between two groups of men from Green’s Grand Park neighborhood and the nearby Flag Street area.
The dispute began in November 2008 when the two groups fought over a drink thrown while at a nightclub. The next day, Clemons’ brother, Jerry, was slain in a drive-by shooting at West 14th and Canal streets.
Green was arrested, along with two other men, Eric Andrews, 29, and Demarcus Johnson, 25. Andrews has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder but has not yet been sentenced. Johnson is still awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges.
Green was first convicted in the August 2009 shooting of Willie Golden, 28, in a home on West 26th Street.
Prosecutors said Green killed Golden in retaliation for a drive-by shooting on a drug house that Green ran.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty in that case but dropped it after the jury said premeditation hadn’t been proved.
Green was then convicted of the murder of 24-year-old Robert Kearney. Prosecutors said Green shot Kearney at Confederate Point Apartments in March 2009 because two friends had been shot at earlier in the night, and he was out for revenge.
The jury recommended he be sentenced to death by a 7-5 vote. But Circuit Judge James Daniel sentenced him to life. Daniel expressed reluctance to impose the death penalty because of uncertainty over whether Green was the one who actually pulled the trigger. During trial defense attorneys argued that Bruce Brice Jr. really shot Kearney and blamed Green to get a lesser sentence.
Brice, 26, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He testified against Green as part of his plea bargain and said Green pulled the trigger.
The jury convicted Green of first-degree murder on the basis of premeditation of felony murder and found that Green possessed a firearm during the commission of the crime. But the jury did not find that Green discharged a gun.
“The sum total of the jury’s verdict was that the defendant was guilty of first-degree murder on the basis that he was a principal to the crime, “ the judge said.
A principal to a crime is someone who helps another person commit a crime. Daniel said the jury did not determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Green was the actual shooter.
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470