After nearly two hours of deliberations, a 12-person jury found Daron Harrell, 35, guilty of first degree-murder in the 2018 fatal shooting of 36-year-old Kevin Lamar Stevens.
WEST PALM BEACH — Keith Edwards stepped up to the courtroom podium with his wife, Sharon, on Friday afternoon and spoke directly to the 35-year-old man who witnesses, West Palm Beach police and a 12-person jury say shot and killed his son, Kevin Lamar Stevens.
He explained that being in court was just as difficult as the day he got the news his 36-year-old son was killed. Even though his son’s life was gone because of Daron Harrell, and Harrell would likely spend the rest of his life in prison, Edwards wanted him to know his life mattered, too.
"Keep your head up and move forward with the perspective that you living means something," he said. "Your life is purposeful."
After nearly two hours of deliberations Friday, jurors found Harrell guilty of first-degree murder in the May 5, 2018, fatal shooting of Stevens, a father of three, a barber, an artist and an Orlando native, according to family members.
Though Harrell will be sentenced to the mandatory term of life in prison that comes with a first-degree murder conviction, his attorneys, Josie James and Jaianna Seaborne, asked that he be sentenced at a later date so his family could attend. Circuit Judge Kirk Volker set a court date for April 21.
The jury also found Harrell guilty of being a felon in possession of a weapon.
Prosecutors said Harrell previously was convicted of attempted-second degree murder in Maryland and was placed on parole.
Outside of court, after taking time to hug both the prosecutors and defense attorneys with his wife, Keith Edwards said everyone makes mistakes.
"It speaks to the fact that God gave him a purpose and he had a choice, just like my son," he said.
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Stevens’ parents said he had his own criminal record that followed him as he tried to move forward with his life and his children. But, Edwards said, it is the choices after those mistakes that show what kind of person you are.
Three days before he was killed, Stevens spoke with his father and told him he was finally feeling like "his change was coming," Edwards recalled.
"He never got that second chance to make things right," he said. "I asked God to keep him safe. I never imagined that he’d be gone."
On May 5, 2018, witnesses said Harrell got out of a blue Lexus on the 700 block of Fifth Street, between Sapodilla and Rosemary avenues, walked to another vehicle where Stevens was alone inside. Police said Harrell reached into the passenger side window, shot Stevens twice and fled the scene in the Lexus.
With Stevens at the steering wheel, the vehicle drove forward, then crashed into a parked car. Stevens died at the scene, according to investigators.
When body-camera footage of the incident was shown in court this week, officers surrounding Stevens’ body asked if he was having an overdose because they did not see the two small gunshot wounds on the right side of his chest.
The day after the shooting, U.S. marshals tracked Harrell and his family at the Super 8 motel on Hypoluxo Road in Lantana, according to investigators.
Three witnesses testified during the trial that they saw Harrell shoot Stevens, but they didn’t know the motive.
During her closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Danielle Kushel explained to the jury that prosecutors did not have to prove a motive to prove Harrell was the gunman and that the shooting was premeditated. Kushel, who worked alongside prosecutor John Parnofiello, said sometimes there just isn’t one.
"We know he knew exactly what he was going to do when he got out of the car because he was armed," she said. "That’s premeditation."
Seaborne told the jury in her closing arguments there just wasn’t enough physical evidence to pin the shooting on her client.
Though six cellphones were found in the motel room with Harrell, she told the jurors they never saw cellphone location data. Though Harrell was up against the car Stevens was in, detectives did not swab the car for DNA or fingerprints, she said.
And though three witnesses claim to have seen the shooting, there was no testimony from anyone else in the busy neighborhood on that Saturday that put her client at the scene or a gun in his hands.
Investigators and prosecutors "felt it was enough. They want you to believe what they’ve given you is enough. But it’s not," she said.
Outside of court Friday, Sharon Edwards showed prosecutors and defense attorneys alike the photos of Stevens’ twin girls, Kailya and Kanyla. She said he was a different person with those babies. Stevens was killed just shy of their first birthday.
"She is the spitting image of her daddy," she said, pointing to the most recent photo of Kanyla with pink beads in her hair and a Minnie Mouse shirt, matching her sister. "It’s a blessing we’ll always have that face."
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