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Jury Decides 76-Year-Old Killer was Sane

LaToya Dennis

It took a Milwaukee jury only minutes Friday, to decide John H. Spooner was mentally competent when he shot and killed 13-year-old Darius Simmons in 2012.

Earlier this week, the jurors convicted Spooner of the killing, now in the second phase, they held him responsible for his actions. He faces life with prison - and will be sentenced on Monday afternoon.

While Spooner's attorney argued that the 76-year-old did not realize his actions were wrong, prosecutors told the court that Spooner had been angry, not mentally ill. He had accused the teenager of stealing guns, but police did not find them in the boy's home.

Simmons' mother, Patricia Larry whispered, ‘Thank you, God’ as the judge read the verdict. Once outside, she thanked others, including the prosecutor. “I want to thank Mr. Williams, he did a wonderful job. And I’d like to thank the community, family, and friends. Justice was served,” Larry said.

Larry turned away in court during closing arguments, when the court showed video of the shooting.

The family's attorney, Jonathan Safran calls the verdict bittersweet and says the fight is not over.

"We do have a civil or wrongful death suit that’s still pending. There’ll be a status conference later this month that we’ll discuss with the court, now that this part is done, as to how we move forward. And then we will still be evaluating other issues related to the Milwaukee police department, and the way that Ms. Larry and the family were treated following the death of Darius,” Safran said.



From Thursday's court proceedings: Spooner gave the court a glimpse into his thought process on the day of the killing.  Against the advice of his attorney, Spooner took the stand and said he had snapped, did not feel bad about shooting the boy and may have shot Simmons' brother, had the gun not jammed.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.