One of three defendants in the 2004 murder case of Scotty Joe Weaver in Alabama in 2004 has made a surprise guilty plea that will spare him the death penalty one week before his trial is set to begin.
The defendant Christopher Gaines and two others, Robert Holly Lofton Porter, 20, and Nichole Bryars Kelsay, 20, robbed Weaver of between $65 and $80 before beating, strangling, and stabbing him to death and then setting his body on fire. His charred, decomposed body was discovered by the side of a rural road. Prosecutors say they murder was committed, in part, because Weaver was gay.
According to the Tuscaloosa News, “As required by Alabama’s capital murder law, jurors will still hear testimony in an abbreviated trial that is scheduled to begin Monday. The judge can sentence Gaines to death or life in prison without parole, but Gaines is expected to get life as a result of his plea. Gaines will not testify at the trial, but jurors will watch a video recording of his confession, defense attorney J. Clark Stankoski said. Lawyers have not said if Gaines will become a witness against his two co-defendants, who are scheduled to be tried separately later this year.”
WKRG in Mobile described a somber scene in court: “Flanked by his defense attorneys, Gaines stood before Judge Lang Floyd and assured the judge this is his decision and something he wants to do. Attorney Greg Hughes says there is a reason for the decision, ‘He wants to take responsibility for what he did and put all this behind him as far as he can.’ That’s little comfort to Weaver’s family. His Mother and brother in court, both wiping tears away after the guilty plea. ‘It’s sad for them they were part of our discussions last week so they were also prepared for the plea. They’re just sad about their son,’ says Newcomb.”
Gaines’ trial is set to begin on Monday. The two other defendants in September.