MONROE, Ga. — The lawyer for a teen who killed two men wants his client to receive the minimum sentence.
Prosecutors are seeking the maximum.
Senior Judge Samuel D. Ozburn conducted a hearing Thursday on the sentence for Kinterie Kiatis Durden, who was found guilty of murder last fall in the 2017 deaths of Davoddren “Smack” Harris and Cortez White Sr.
Ozburn conducted the hearing by video conference due to the judicial emergency. Defense attorney Dwight Thomas was in his office in Atlanta, and District Attorney Layla Zon was in the courtroom. Durden was in a makeshift courtroom at the Walton County Jail.
Durden was 16 when he was arrested a day after the May 22, 2017, deaths of Harris and White. Durden lured the men from Meriwether County to sell a dirt bike in a transaction arranged online. However, Durden robbed them of the bike and shot them.
Their bodies were found in a Toyota pickup truck on Clegg Farm Road in what police first thought was a one-vehicle crash.
White’s aunt Teresa Moss said Durden’s actions broke two families.
“You can never even start to understand the pain, the heartbreak, the emotional distress you’ve brought our families,” she said.
“Clearly Cortez and Davoddren meant absolutely nothing to you as you heartlessly took their lives as you took a measly $1,650 dirt bike that you couldn’t even enjoy.”
Moss described her nephew as a “kind, loving person with a heart of gold.”
Sheila White said the loss of her son, Cortez, has “impacted me tremendously.” She read a letter from his 12-year-old son, Cortez White Jr., who said he loved riding dirt bikes with his dad.
Thomas asked the court to consider the minimum sentence, life sentences, running concurrently, with the chance of parole.
He argued prior cases in Georgia call for the maximum “only in exceptional circumstances for the rare juvenile offender” and suggested the New Testament shows a path to redemption.
A letter from Durden’s mother suggested the man suffered emotionally when his parents divorced.
“He was just a kid when this happened. Studies show the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25,” she wrote. “I ask that he please be given a second chance.”
Durden later told Ozburn and the relatives of White and Harris, “I want to tell y’all sorry again for my actions or whatever.”
Zon took issue with Thomas’ arguments saying Durden is “that exceptional case of a juvenile with exceptional criminal history.”
And while Thomas said he disagreed with Ozburn’s ruling in the trial that evidence of past criminal behavior by the deceased was inadmissible, Zon noted that the jury rejected arguments of self-defense.
She said an evaluation of Durden found someone who “uses his personal charm” to cover bad intentions, and that he’s shown a lack of remorse for past violent behavior.
“We know he’s stolen from his own mother. We know he’s stolen from his grandmother. He’s been abusive to his sister,” Zon said.
Ozburn didn’t rule Thursday and didn’t give an indication of when he would hand down a sentence. He planned to study eight years of Durden’s school records and wanted to look at the state’s recommendation.
Zon — who on Tuesday will become a Superior Court judge after Ozburn’s retirement on April 30 — asked for two concurrent sentences of life without parole for murder, and concurrent life sentences for armed robbery.
State law mandates a five-year prison term tacked on for a conviction on a charge of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, but Zon said she’d accept those charges running concurrent with each other.
Thomas asked for the possibility of life sentences running concurrently, but with the possibility of parole.
A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling means the death penalty is not an option for crimes committed by someone under the age of 18.