Man convicted of 2017 slaying; jurors to weigh death penalty
EASTON, Pa. (AP) — Jurors reassemble Monday to hear evidence on whether a man convicted of a slaying in an eastern Pennsylvania parking lot should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without possibility of parole.
The Northampton County panel deliberated for 2½ hours before convicting 26-year-old Dekota Baptiste of first-degree murder and attempted murder Friday night, rejecting his argument that he acted in self-defense.
Baptiste took the stand Friday to say he was trying to patch things up with 37-year-old Terrance Ferguson, but opened fire outside a Palmer Township auto parts store in February 2017 after the other man hit him with his car.
“All I was thinking was survival ...I tried to get out the way numerous times, but he just kept trying to run me over,” Baptiste said.
A passenger in the victim’s car who ducking to the floor to get out of the line of fire was scheduled to testify Monday but was so emotional that she could not get through her testimony and later fainted in the courtroom’s foyer. She failed to appear for the next three days despite an arrest warrant. Another woman was charged with witness intimidation.
A surprise witness, however, testified Friday that he heard Baptiste tell Ferguson shortly before the shoo0ting “You disrespected me with my girlfriend.”
Witnesses said they saw Baptiste follow Ferguson into the parking lot, get out of his car and talk to Ferguson, then open fire through the passenger side and trunk of Ferguson’s car, hitting him four times.
Assistant District Attorney Abraham Kassis said the car would have had to have been traveling sideways at Baptiste if he shot at it in self-defense.
“He shot and killed this man for no reason. It was totally avoidable,” Kassis said.