EATONTON, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia prisoner found guilty of murder in the 2017 killings of two guards on a transport bus was sentenced Wednesday to serve life in prison without parole.
The trial of Donnie Rowe, a defendant in malice murder and other charges, took only a few hours. However, the jury could not agree on whether Rowe should be sentenced. News outlets reported. Brenda Trammell, Chief Judge of Putnam County Superior Court sentenced Rowe to life imprisonment without parole. A death sentence requires a unanimous jury.
Seven women and five men, who were brought to Eatonton by pretrial publicity, were part of the jury. According to media outlets, they deliberated for three hours Tuesday afternoon and five hours Wednesday.
Rowe and Ricky Dubose, a fellow prisoner, were accused of shooting dead Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sergeant. Curtis Billue as he escaped from a transfer bus prison southeast of Atlanta in June 2017. They were both arrested in Tennessee just a few days later.
Dubose faces separate trials and the death penalty.
While the attack was caught on camera by security cameras, around 30 other prisoners saw the executions from behind the bus.
Rowe’s defense lawyers had claimed that he did not know Dubose would murder the guards. They should have been spared death sentences. Wright Barksdale, the District Attorney, had claimed that Rowe was responsible for the plot to escape and that the crime required both of them.
Jurors were able to see the scene of the murders from the parking lot of the bus at the courthouse. They heard also from the man who stole the car of the inmates right after they fled the bus. A homeowner in Rutherford County in Tennessee grabbed a gun and called 911 after Rowe, Dubose, and his family walked towards their home. He stated that the exhausted fugitives had surrendered to him and laid down.
Rowe did not testify. His defense lawyers played audio and video to the jury of Dubose, who claimed he was responsible for the deaths of both officers. The defense lawyers then retreated from their case.
Rowe was already in prison serving a life sentence for an armed burglary conviction four years before the guards were killed.