ATLANTA – A federal jury found two men guilty Wednesday of conspiracy in the 2000 death of a newly elected sheriff who was gunned down on the orders of the man he had defeated.
Melvin Walker and David Ramsey faced 12 federal charges in the death of Dekalb County sheriff-elect Derwin Brown (search), including conspiracy to violate the federal murder-for-hire statute and using interstate facilities to kill Brown. They were acquitted of four counts of civil rights and firearms charges.
DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey (search) was convicted of state charges in 2002 for ordering the hit after Brown defeated him in the election.
After the verdict was read Wednesday, Walker's family wailed and sobbed and had to be escorted out of the courtroom, while about two dozen members of the Brown family hugged each other and prosecutors.
"We're all overjoyed," said Brandy Brown-Rhodes, Derwin Brown's 26-year-old daughter.
Both men could get life in prison when sentenced Oct. 26. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
Brown was shot 16 times in front of his home on Dec. 15, 2000, just days before he was to have succeeded Dorsey. In a 911 call that night, Brown's wife, Phyllis Brown, told a dispatcher: "If Sidney did something to my husband, I'm going to kill him."
Dorsey is serving a life prison sentence. Walker and Ramsey were acquitted in a state trial in 2002; they were indicted on federal charges last year.
Prosecutors argued that Walker, the suspected triggerman, was promised a promotion to deputy sheriff if he helped kill Brown. Ramsey, the alleged backup shooter, was promised a job as a detention officer, they said.
The defense argued that Patrick Cuffy and Paul Skyers, two conspirators who were granted immunity by local prosecutors, were the real killers and that they accused Walker and Ramsey to save themselves.
The federal government was compelled to go for a prosecution after Walker and Ramsey were acquitted in state court because "a law enforcement officer was gunned down so brutally," said FBI agent Greg Jones.
Derwin Brown first served DeKalb as a youth counselor for troubled teens and soon became one of the county's first black patrol officers.
As DeKalb's black population grew, so did Brown's civic involvement. He ran for sheriff against Dorsey in 2000 on an anti-corruption platform and dreamed of creating a program to help needy students cultivate technical skills.