WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Regardless of how many or how few heinous acts a suspect admitted committing on a woman and her young son, he is guilty of everything that happened that terrifying night in the projects, a prosecutor said in closing arguments Thursday.
"You probably heard things you never thought you'd hear in your life," prosecutor Aleathea McRoberts told jurors.
The trial has been filled with horrific details of how 10 masked, gun-toting teens repeatedly raped the woman, beat her then 12-year-old son and forced the mother to perform oral sex on her own boy, before dousing the pair with chemicals in an effort to clean the crime scene.
McRoberts said the suspects "committed some of the most egregious, unspeakable crimes a human being could commit against another human being."
Nathan Walker, 18, and Tommy Lee Poindexter, 20, are on trial in the case. Walker faces 14 counts, including sexual battery, burglary, kidnapping, grand theft and promoting sexual performance of a child. Poindexter faces the same charges, but not grand theft. A third defendant, Avion Lawson, a 14-year-old middle schooler at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty and testified against Poindexter and Walker. A fourth defendant, now 17-year-old Jakaris Taylor, is set for trial next month.
The defendants were teens at the time, but are charged as adults. They could spend life in prison if convicted.
While Poindexter and Walker are being tried together, they have separate juries. Attorneys were presenting closing arguments Thursday to Poindexter's jury, and planned closings for Walker's jury on Friday. Both juries will then begin deliberations separately.
The defendants made limited admissions, but also tried to deflect blame. Lawson claims he raped the woman once, then left soon after. Poindexter's attorney says her client also raped the woman, but didn't participate in any of the other crimes. Walker's attorney has taken a similar approach.
Authorities say fingerprints and DNA found on clothing and condoms inside the apartment identified the defendants. They are still seeking additional suspects.
The prosecutor on Thursday explained to jurors that it doesn't matter how many of the crimes each defendant actually participated in, they are all equally responsible for everything.
"When a group of masked individuals go into a home at night and terrorize people at length ... it's going to be difficult," to determine who did what, McRoberts said.
"Use your common sense," she added. "The important thing for you to remember is that as principals, they are each liable for everything else the other did."
On Wednesday, the female victim testified and described for jurors the events on that terrifying night June 18, 2007, in her apartment in a public housing complex a few miles from downtown West Palm Beach.
Speaking softly, pausing occasionally for heavy breaths, the woman recounted how she prayed for her life and cried in pain as she was repeatedly raped in her bedroom and beaten with guns — all the while listening to her son scream as he was assaulted down the hall.
She said the suspects lured her out of her house by telling her she had two flat tires on her pickup truck, then accosted her at gunpoint and forced her and her son back inside. For several hours, the pair endured terror as she was raped over and over, sodomized, then forced to do the unspeakable — perform oral sex on her own son.
"I was crying and telling them that hurts," the victim said.
Throughout the attack, the suspects demanded money, but she had none. The victims had fled even worse poverty in their native Haiti several years earlier. She begged for her life.
"I was crying and praying at the same time," she said.