A jury needed only about an hour Thursday to find Rajerick Lovell Knight guilty of murdering Travis Sentell Holmes last year in a Beaufort sandwich shop.
Judge Craig Brown handed down a life sentence for murder and added five years for possession of a weapon during a violent crime. Before Brown's verdict, Knight apologized to Holmes' mother and asked the judge not to sentence him to life in prison.
Knight's mother and Lashaunaka Allen, his girlfriend, made similar pleas.
"Please don't take him away from us forever," Allen said. "I'm sorry he took one life, but please don't take another."
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In closing statements, attorney Arie Bax asked the jury of three men and eight women to consider whether his client shot Holmes for revenge or because he feared for his life and his family's safety.
During deliberations, the jury asked to review two surveillance-camera clips that showed Knight buying food with a friend July 26, 2011, at the counter of the Subway restaurant in Cross Creek shopping center. The footage also showed Holmes passing while Knight and his friend left the store. Knight returned about a minute later and shot Holmes, who was paying for his food.
Holmes' friends and family dabbed at tears as they watched Holmes jerk his body away from the gun and stumble out of the store bleeding.
The jury delivered its verdict about 10 minutes after reviewing the video.
After the trial, Holmes' mother, Gwen Myers, said it was the first time she'd seen the footage.
"It's not something you can prepare for," she said. "Even though he got life in prison, it doesn't bring my son back."
Bax tried to show the jury that Holmes had a history of violence and was threatening Knight. His eight witnesses, including Knight, testified to an incident May 30, 2011, in which two unknown shooters fired 17 bullets into Knight's mobile home on Donaldson Drive in Burton. Knight was not at home at the time, but his pregnant girlfriend and 4-year-old adopted son were.
Knight believed Holmes and an accomplice were responsible for the shootings, but Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators were unable to get enough information from witnesses to make an arrest.
Knight didn't want to be the one to kill Holmes, Bax said in his closing argument, "but he was so scared. ... He had a gun to the back of his head for months and months."
Solicitor Duffie Stone, who called the shooting a "public execution" throughout the trial, said Knight's history as a drug dealer and his choice to leave the Subway, then return to shoot Holmes couldn't be ignored or excused.
"Revenge is not a defense," Stone said. "They want you to believe Travis Holmes was a bad guy so he needed killing. They want you to ignore the law."
Judge Brown said Knight is "criminally responsible for his conduct" and had a choice not to return to the restaurant. "Not only did you take a life that day, but you endangered many people," he said.
Knight remained expressionless as the verdict and sentence were issued.
Brown did not allow the jury to hear about Holmes' criminal past or testimony from a forensic psychologist who was to speak to Knight's state of mind before and during the shooting.
"I don't think the jury got to hear all the information to make a proper decision," Bax said afterward.
Brown also rejected Bax's request to allow the jury to consider a charge of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder.
Knight's legal team plans to appeal the ruling, according to Richard Ulbrich, a private detective working with Bax.