After six hours of deliberation Thursday, Fayette Circuit Court jurors found Joshua Lee Tevis guilty of reckless homicide and being a persistent felony offender in the shooting death of Johntel Crocker.
As the verdict was read by Judge Pamela Goodwine, cries and sobs were heard from relatives of both the convicted and the victim. Jurors recommended that Tevis, 28, serve a total of 15 years.
Formal sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23.
Under instructions from Goodwine, jurors could have found Tevis guilty of murder, second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Tevis' attorney, Russ Baldani was disappointed in the verdict because "we thought he was justified in what he did under the Kentucky law of self-defense."
"It's a tragic case," Baldani said. "A young man lost his life, and now another young man is doing 15 years. It's just another tragic case of gun violence between a couple of young people. ... Like we said in the closing argument, 'There's no winners for sure.'"
Baldani said he'll discuss the appeals process with his client.
Tevis, of Lexington, was charged in the fatal shooting of Crocker, 22, in the parking lot outside the Divas Gentleman's Club on Sept. 22, 2013. Evidence presented during the trial showed that Tevis shot Crocker once in the chest after Crocker punched him in the mouth.
Two friends of Crocker then pulled guns and opened fire, which Tevis returned, with a total of more than 30 shots fired, according to testimony.
The trial began Tuesday.
The prosecution wrapped up its case Wednesday afternoon. The defense called no witnesses Thursday but submitted as evidence records of medical treatments that Tevis received for his mouth injury while being held in the Fayette County jail.
Final arguments Thursday morning revolved around sharply differing interpretations of surveillance video from the Divas parking lot which showed Tevis being struck by Crocker and then shooting him. The video was played for jurors repeatedly during the trial.
According to testimony, some of which was disputed by attorneys, the shooting occurred after a fight broke out in the Divas Club parking lot between some women. Crocker helped break up the fight but might have climbed over or stepped on Tevis' Nissan Maxima in the process, witnesses said. Tevis then told Crocker to get off the car, according to the testimony, and the confrontation between the two then began.
Defense attorney Tucker Richardson argued in his summation that the video showed that Tevis acted in self-defense after being struck. Richardson said the defendant was "sucker punched" by Crocker and fired the fatal shot because he feared that Crocker, who was larger, was about to do him greater bodily harm or possibly threaten his life.
"There is no question that Josh had a right to defend himself; all he wanted to do was to get this guy off of him," Richardson said, urging jurors to find the defendant not guilty.
But Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Bryant painted a different picture, contending that the video indicated Tevis actually had been the aggressor.
Bryant argued that Tevis provoked Crocker by saying something to him just before he was punched. Bryant said Tevis then shot Crocker, using deadly force that was not justified by the punch to the mouth. Bryant noted that Tevis fired a second shot that grazed Crocker after Crocker already was on the ground from the first bullet.
"A cut to the lip is not a serious physical injury; a gunshot wound to the chest is a serious physical injury," Bryant declared, calling for jurors to find the defendant guilty of murder. Under the circumstances, "He (Tevis) was not privileged to act in self-defense," Bryant said.