Shawn Tyson trial: Shot Britons found 'with shirts off'

A court has heard that two British men shot dead in Florida last April were found with their shirts off and trousers round their thighs.

Shawn Tyson, 17, is being tried for the murders of James Cooper, 25, from Hampton Lucy, near Warwick, and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton.

A court in Sarasota, Florida, heard they had drunkenly walked into the rundown neighbourhood of Newtown.

Mr Tyson has been charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree murder.

He was 16 at the time of the murders and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted.

Mr Tyson's mother, Kenyatta Whitfield, who has been in court since Monday, has repeatedly protested her son's innocence.

Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper were in the second week of a three-week holiday with Mr Cooper's family when they were killed in the early hours of 16 April.

'Six to eight gunshots'

The court heard how the pair had been out for a meal with Mr Cooper's parents and then went drinking.

Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky, for the prosecution, said they left the Gator Club in Sarasota at about 02:00 local time before wandering into Newtown, a poorer area of the city.

Mr Brodsky told the court that witnesses reported seeing two black males watching the British holiday makers before hearing between six and eight gunshots ring out.

He said that police and fire and rescue services arrived at Carver Court and pronounced the men dead at the scene.

Image caption James Cooper was on holiday with his family in Sarasota

They were found on either side of the road.

Mr Brodsky said: "James Cooper was shirtless, clutching his shirt in his hand, his blue jeans that he was wearing were found pulled down about mid-thigh level.

"He still had his wallet, money, cell phone and camera in his possession."

The court was shown a range of pictures of the crime scene, including one showing Mr Cooper, shirtless and with his trousers near his knees and Mr Kouzaris, whose trousers were also round his thighs.

The court heard there was a trail of blood spots leading to Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris also still had his wallet and money on him.

Crime scene investigator Jerry Wagner told the court that Mr Cooper's wallet had a total of $63.45 (£40) while Mr Kouzaris's contained $62.05 (£39).

Mr Brodsky said a friend of Mr Tyson's, Jermaine Bane, would describe seeing him on the night of the murders.

He said that Mr Bane received a call, which he thought was accidental, from Mr Tyson telling someone there were two white men walking in the area, but then hung up.

He said Mr Bane would say he heard gunshots five or 10 minutes later and Mr Tyson called him to ask if he had heard them.

When he said "yes" Mr Tyson told him to go outside and see if there were any bodies.

Mr Brodsky said Mr Bane also saw Mr Tyson with a 0.22 calibre revolver which he would frequently carry wrapped in a red bandana.

The court heard from witness Nakiera Keno, aged 21, who was driving in the area when she saw Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper walking in Newtown.

Ms Keno, who had friends in the car with her, said they had "no shirts, baggy jeans, no shoes" and also saw two black men who "looked young".

She said the two white men were just standing "like they were waiting on some drugs or something".

Ms Keno then heard gunshots, prompting her to turn her music down. She drove back round past the scene, she said, and saw the two white men on the ground.

'Pleaded with gunman'

Mr Brodsky said that one witness said Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris had pleaded with Mr Tyson to let them go, that they were drunk and that they were just trying to find their way home.

He said: "Mr Tyson had boasted to one witness that he began shooting them both."

Another witness, Marvin Gaines, said Mr Tyson told him he had put the gun under his house and buried seven shell casings from that weapon in his yard.

When he asked why, Mr Tyson told him: "Those two bodies back there, I did that."

Image caption The court heard James Kouzaris had been drinking with James Cooper

Mr Brodsky said police searched Mr Tyson's bedroom on the evening of 16 April and found a 0.22 calibre bullet, and that his DNA was found on Mr Cooper's jeans.

Mr Wagner, the crime scene investigator, told the court he had recovered seven 0.22 calibre bullet casings from a nearby yard after the shootings.

Carolyn Schlemmer, for the defence, told the jury: "The evidence in this case will show no murder weapon or a weapon believed to even be a murder weapon was ever recovered in this case."

She said the gun and bullet casings found were not linked directly to Mr Tyson but to the people who had given them to police.

She said a 0.22 calibre gun and 0.22 calibre bullets were some of the most common in the world.

Friends of Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris, Paul Davies and Joe Hallett, were in court on Thursday, but did not want to comment.

The trial continues.