WENTWORTH — Trevon Taylor took the witness stand Wednesday and told a jury it was fear that caused him to pull a gun and shoot Dominique Jemelle McDaniel at a birthday party nearly three years ago.
The bullet pierced McDaniel’s heart, killing him. The 22-year-old was from Axton, Va.
“It was never meant to happen like that,” said Taylor, who was 17 at the time.
Jury members apparently believed him. They convicted Taylor, who had been charged with first-degree murder, of the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.
The jury deliberated all day Friday before notifying the court at 5:10 p.m. that they had reached a verdict.
Judge Anderson Cromer sentenced Taylor, now 19, to six to eight years in prison. He will be given credit for the nearly three years he has awaited trial in the Rockingham County jail.
The jury had the choice of convicting Taylor of first- or second-degree murder, or voluntary manslaughter. With the agreement of the prosecution and defense, the jurors were told not to consider a verdict of not guilty.
Defense attorney Richard Panosh said Taylor knew what he did was wrong and accepted responsibility, but that the shooting was not intentional.
Taylor testified that he feared McDaniel because of previous run-ins he’d had with him. According to testimony, the two had words during a Sept. 23, 2005, party for McDaniel’s younger sister at the Boone Road Community Center in Eden.
Taylor testified that he left the party but returned minutes later when he heard someone yelling his brother’s name. When he got inside, Taylor testified, he saw McDaniel coming toward him. He said McDaniel reached toward his waistband; fearing McDaniel had a weapon, Taylor shot him.
Taylor testified he made arrangements with his family to turn himself in shortly after the shooting.
But Julia Hejazi, Rockingham County’s chief assistant district attorney, said Taylor turned what was supposed to be a celebration into a tragedy. He came to the party with a gun, she said.
Hejazi questioned why Taylor didn’t immediately leave the party when he saw McDaniel if he was really afraid of him.
During her closing argument Thursday afternoon, Hejazi told the jury it was time for the voice of McDaniel, known as Jemelle, to be heard.
“His family’s life will never be the same,” Hejazi said. “Let this day be the day that justice is served for Jemelle.”
The jury also heard testimony this week from Taylor’s family, who said he had an unstable childhood after his father died.
They also heard from Durham psychiatrist Katayoun Tabrizi, who interviewed Taylor twice in jail and reviewed his mental health records from North Carolina and Indiana, where he lived at various times.
Tabrizi said that at one point Taylor was diagnosed with major depression with psychotic features. Tabrizi diagnosed him with depression but said she did not detect any psychotic features.
Taylor has been regularly taking antidepressants since he has been incarcerated, according to testimony.
Contact Jonnelle Davis
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