Jurors returned multiple guilty verdicts Monday evening in the trial of four defendants charged in connection with the 2016 shooting death of Trinity Gay, daughter of Olympian Tyson Gay.
The jury found Chazerae Taylor guilty of wanton murder and four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. His son, D’Markeo Taylor, was found guilty of first-degree wanton endangerment.
D’Vonta Middlebrooks was found guilty on one count of wanton endangerment, but not guilty on five other counts of wanton endangerment. Lamonte Williams was found guilty on five counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
The wanton-endangerment convictions were for putting four young people at risk of death or serious physical injury. They were Morgan Gaines, Alexa Garner, Chance Gist and Taylor Middleton. All four were in or around the car where Trinity Gay was standing.
Middlebrooks was found guilty of wanton endangerment related to his shooting at a blue Ford Fusion. His attorney contended that someone in the car was shooting at Middlebrooks, but prosecutors said the shots were fired into the air.
The sentencing phase of the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Wanton murder is punishable by 20 years to life. Each count of first-degree wanton endangerment is punishable by one to five years in prison.
Tyson Gay said he and his family were happy with the verdicts.
“I just hope something positive comes out of this situation,” Tyson Gay said. “I really believe our prosecutors did a great job.”
Gay acknowledged that the last two years “have been rough for my entire family. ...I’m just glad it’s over. I’m proud that my daughter got some justice.”
Trinity, 15, a track star at Lafayette High School, was shot in the lower neck during an exchange of gunfire at Cook Out restaurant on South Broadway on Oct. 16, 2016.
Prosecutors were unable to definitively say who killed Trinity. Her DNA was found on a .45-caliber bullet recovered from the scene, but police did not find a matching gun. There was no testimony as to who might have fired a .45-caliber firearm.
After 25 prosecution witnesses and 135 pieces of evidence, “The question still remains, ‘Who killed Trinity Gay?’” public defender Christine Madjar told the jury in her closing argument.
But the prosecution argued that Chazerae Taylor started a chain reaction of shooting that led to Trinity’s wounding and death. Trinity’s death was “avoidable,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brad Bryant told the jury.
“It never had to happen,” Bryant said. If Chazerae Taylor had not fired the first shot, there would have been no trial.
Witnesses said Chazerae Taylor, 40, was the first person to fire a gun at the scene. The jurors were instructed that they could consider wanton murder, second-degree manslaughter, reckless homicide, and first- or second-degree wanton endangerment in regard to Trinity’s shooting.
Chazerae’s son, D’Markeo Taylor, 21, and two others, Lamonte Williams, 22, and D’Vonta Middlebrooks, 23, were charged with first-degree wanton endangerment.
D’Markeo Taylor and a friend, Raekwon Berry, had been robbed of a gun late on Oct. 15, 2016, at Cook Out. Shortly before 4 a.m. the next day, Chazerae Taylor, D’Markeo Taylor and Williams went to Cook Out to get the gun back. Middlebrooks was at the scene when the shooting started.
Madjar, co-counsel for Chazerae Taylor, said the police did not fully investigate the case. “Reasonable doubt walked into this courtroom and testified,” Madjar said in her closing.
Madjar said Chazerae Taylor fired into the air because that was the quickest way to disperse people who had gathered in the parking lot of Cook Out.
Bryant countered that “Reasonable people don’t fire firearms into the air to clear a parking lot,” he said.
Jurors began their deliberations shortly before 4:30 p.m. Monday and returned the verdicts more than four hours later.
Defense attorneys on Friday had sought to have Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone toss out the cases against their clients, citing insufficient evidence, but the judge denied those requests. Most of Monday morning was spent preparing more than 50 pages of jury instructions.
Asked what he hopes young people and adults will learn from the episode, Gay said: “Honesty, man, I don’t think there is a blueprint to raising your child. But in the same breath, I truly believe as a city we have to come together. As parents we have to come together. As friends, we have to protect each other. Once we’re able to do that, I think the city will be a lot better.”