Shaniya Davis: A Convicted Mario McNeill Refuses to Defend Against a Possible Death Sentence As the Jury Deliberates His Fate

Mario McNeill, in a photo dated May 15, during his trial for killing five-year-old Shaniya Davis; he was found guilty  on May 23 of murdering Shaniya, but not of raping her (Courtesy: Michael Joyner)

Mario McNeill, in a photo dated May 15, during his trial for killing five-year-old Shaniya Davis; he was found guilty on May 23 of murdering Shaniya, but not of raping her (Courtesy: Michael Joyner)

Well, the smile has disappeared, but it occasionally returns to his lips.

Jurors are set to begin deliberating the sentence for Mario McNeill, who was convicted last week of killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in November 2009.

Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West this morning urged jurors to sentence McNeill to death.

West said the aggravating factors in the case outweighed the mitigating factors. Aggravating factors included McNeill’s previous felony assault convictions and his conviction in this case on kidnapping and sex offense charges.

Mitigating factors, which McNeill had allowed his lawyers to compile but not present, included his use of drugs and alcohol at the time of Shaniya’s kidnapping and death, the fact that he voluntarily went to the police to be interviewed after Shaniya was reported missing, and his relationship with his own children.

In a 35-minute presentation closing the prosecution’s case in the sentencing phase, West told jurors the mitigating factors “certainly are insufficient” against the aggravating factors.

Jurors went out about 12:15 p.m. to select a foreman and begin deliberations.

Over the advice of his lawyers, McNeill decided Tuesday that he didn’t want them to fight for his life in the sentencing phase. That included final arguments on his behalf.

When the trial judge asked why, McNeill said softly, “My goal was freedom. I lost my freedom. It doesn’t matter after that.”

I’ll bet that it doesn’t.  This guy really thought that he could beat the rap?  McNeill refused to allow his mother, Juanita Ball, to testify on his behalf.  Ball has been present since the trial began.  He essentially told the judge that he did not want a whole list of people called by his attorneys to say anything on his behalf, from the family pastor to his sister.  He sat placidly, smiling while he folded origami cranes, one after the other.

Bradley Lockhart and his eldest daughter Cheyenne testified as Shaniya’s immediate survivors for a capital punishment sentence.  Sorry, I have no tears for Lockhart or for Cheyenne.  It was his negligence that helped to bring about the abuse and murder of his youngest daughter. And Cheyenne, it is rumored, reconciled with her father so that he completes the picture of a dutiful father.   As far as I am concerned, Lockhart should have been brought up on charges long ago, but so many hands have been buttered in this case, from the Department of Social Services on down.  What they are doing is mere window dressing, in my opinion.  When Cheyenne has outlived her usefulness, I think that her father will ditch her too, just like he did her sister, just as he did long ago when her mother was murdered and she was raised by her grandparents.

Shaniya’s father, Bradley Lockhart, and her half-sister, Cheyenne Lockhart, gave emotional testimony for the prosecution.

Twice, Bradley Lockhart broke down while recalling his little girl, whose body was found in a wooded area off Walker Road in Lee County on Nov. 16, 2009, six days after she went missing. Asphyxiation was ruled as the cause of death. The jury concluded that McNeill was guilty of sex offense with a child.

“I guess whenever you talk about your kid,” a flush-faced Lockhart said, “you think they’re the best. It hurts to talk about her.”

Cheyenne Lockhart told jurors that Shaniya was “like my Mini Me,” always following her around, always wanting to put on her makeup and cling to her whenever she had to leave.

“It’s hard,” she said, pausing to regain her composure. “It’s painful. Just to know she was once here and somebody took her away. There’s not a day I don’t think about her.”

Whatever.  She probably does feel something now akin to guilt, but the vision of that child clinging to Cheyenne, to anyone who might love her and care for her, knowing what kind of haphazard existence and transient joys that she had: passed from relative to relative, to girlfriends, to a mother who may not have cared one fig about her, and whose own blood relatives burned her with cigarettes or probably much worse just because she was light-skinned, had a white father,  and because they could.

The only thing that really bothers me is that McNeill was not convicted on all counts, namely that rape charge.  The forensics did not support it, and those experts testified that DNA could reasonably deteriorate if not captured in time.  I’m convinced of both, but it just rankles me just the same.

An autopsy determined that she had been suffocated, and she had injuries “consistent with a sexual assault” shortly before she died, according to a medical examiner.

Prosecutors presented 12 days of testimony from 44 witnesses, tying McNeill to Shaniya through a security video at a Sanford hotel, hair from a hotel comforter and a blanket found in a trash can outside the girl’s home, and soil from the gas pedal of his car, which a geologist said likely came from the site where Shaniya’s body was found.

McNeill’s original defense attorney also provided Fayetteville police with information that led to the discovery of Shaniya’s body.

McNeill presented no evidence in his defense, and his attorneys argued that prosecutors couldn’t prove where Shaniya was assaulted or when she died.

His DNA wasn’t found on the girl, and he has maintained that he took her to the Sanford hotel at the request of her aunt and later handed her off to someone he thought was related to her.

And of course, this perp has never been found.  What also gets me is that the aunt, Brenda Davis, handed Shaniya over, and not Antoinette Davis.  Her trial is coming up after McNeill’s trial is officially over.  Why hasn’t this woman been charged with a crime, even as an accessory?   Or did she say that Antoinette made her do it?   This prosecution is weird: in one way and out the other.

The jury should be coming in with a verdict between now and Wednesday.  Stay tuned.

~ by blksista on May 29, 2013.

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