One of the jurors in the penalty phase of the Granville Ritchie trial broke down in tears during the impact statement of the mother of victim Felecia Williams, 9.
The defendant was convicted Wednesday in Hillsborough County, Florida in the rape and murder of the young girl. Prosecutors said at closing arguments that the killer manipulated his mom, and Williams family friend Eboni Wiley in a bid to cover up the crime.
Jurors sided with the state. Ritchie abused Williams, killed her, and dumped her body in the water beside the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Now Ritchie faces a possible death sentence for the crime. Prosecutors brought up the girl’s mother Felecia Demerson to issue a victim impact statement. She spoke about her daughter, known to others as “Sugarplum.”
“I knew when she was first born that she would be my special child,” she said. Demerson said her daughter Felecia was wise beyond her years, and had an “old soul.”
She voiced no sympathy for defendant Ritchie. Quite the opposite. She quoted Jesus from the Biblical book of Matthew.
“‘If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be thrown in the depths of the sea,'” she said. “That scripture is talking to someone that knows better, and Granville Ritchie knew better.”
That ended her victim impact statement, but the judge soon called for a break because one of the jurors started crying. The defense attempted to get this juror struck from the panel, and perhaps even the entire jury.
“They’re human beings. They’re not machines,” said the prosecution, saying this was an emotional victim impact to demonstrate the uniqueness and loss of Williams’ life. The state argued that the juror handled the incident responsibly, and tried to hide her face so her response wouldn’t influence the other jurors. The judge sided with the prosecution on this matter, but said she would remind the jurors not to be influenced by any peer’s response.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]