Jury recommends life sentence for man convicted of killing 2 ex-football players, third man

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Desmonte Leonard points to family members as he leave the courtroom after a jury found him guilty of capital murder, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Opelika, Ala., in the killing two former Auburn University football players and a third man. (AP Photo/Opelika-Auburn News, Todd J. Van Emst)


OPELIKA, Alabama — A jury on Thursday recommended life without parole for a Montgomery man convicted in a fatal shooting that killed two Auburn football players and third man.

The jury voted 7-5 on the sentence for Desmonte Leonard, 25, who was convicted earlier this week in the deaths of ex-Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips in June 2012. Demario Pitts of Opelika also was killed and three others were wounded.

Leonard was convicted of capital murder, three counts of assault and attempted murder. He faced either a life sentence or the death penalty.

District Attorney Robbie Treese told the Opelika-Auburn News that he sought the death penalty but was satisfied with the jury's recommendation. Treese said he was also proud of the victims' relatives — many of whom attended every day of the trial and sentencing.

"It's a difficult time for the family members, for the victims that survived these attacks and I have never been more proud of a group of individuals supporting us in what we do," Treese said. "It's very moving."

Leonard's defense attorneys argued during the trial that a fight at a party led up to the shooting and Leonard fired in self-defense. Prosecutors disputed that and said Leonard aimed at the victims.

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