The man accused of shooting and killing the leader of a rival gang outside a convenience store here last spring was found guilty on Wednesday.
Calvin Stapleton, 41, was convicted of murder and aggravated assault but was acquitted of gang-crime charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Jurors in Bibb County Superior Court deliberated for about half an hour before returning their verdict in the slaying of Andre Jamar Taylor.
More than a dozen of Taylor’s family members attended the trial. Taylor was the father of Quintez Cephus, a former star athlete at Macon’s Stratford Academy and current standout wide receiver on the University of Wisconsin’s football team.
Testimony in the case began Tuesday.
Witnesses and prosecutors said Taylor, 39, was shot from behind in the back of his head after Taylor and Stapleton had a run-in in front of M&M Grocery. The store, at the corner of Montpelier and Pansy avenues in this city’s Unionville neighborhood, lies just west of the old Colonial Bakery.
The deadly confrontation happened in the noon hour of April 3, 2017.
Prosecutors said Stapleton, who was admittedly aligned with the Folk gang, shot Taylor, the leader of the rival Westside Gangster Crips, on the heels of a fight the two men had at a neighborhood speakeasy the night before.
Stapleton’s arm was broken in the earlier fracas.
Video footage from surveillance cameras at M&M Grocery the day of the slaying showed Taylor walk out of the food mart, head over to Stapleton who was approaching the parking lot, and then walk with Stapleton across the lot toward a trash dumpster at the edge of Pansy Avenue.
Before long, a car pulled up. Taylor turned and spoke to someone inside it.
With Taylor’s back turned, Stapleton can been seen in the video rushing up behind Taylor.
Shot once in the back of the head, Taylor collapsed in the parking lot. He died the next day. Stapleton ran off but later turned himself in.
Stapleton took the stand and testified Wednesday that he feared for his life, claiming Taylor had threatened to kill him that day at the food mart.
Prosecutors painted a different picture, suggesting Stapleton had gone there to get even.
“This was a cold-blooded execution,” prosecutor John Regan said during his closing argument.
Stapleton, Regan went on, was out for revenge, and the killing was “a plan executed by a coward — a coward executing a man in cold blood for his gang.”
In the end, a jury of six men and six women decided Stapleton was not guilty of street-gang charges. They appeared to have agreed with Stapleton’s lawyers, who argued the slaying had nothing to do with gang activity, that the deadly encounter arose because of other reasons, possibly a continuation of their clash the night before.
After the verdicts, Stapleton, dressed in a white shirt and black tie, stood before senior Judge Bryant Culpepper and said he was sorry.
“First of all, I apologize to the family,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton, prior to trial, had been offered a chance to plead guilty in exchange for life with parole.
Wednesday afternoon in the moments after his conviction, he told the judge he thought life without parole was “too harsh” a sentence.
“I’m sorry ...” Culpepper said, “the brutality of this particular killing, I think, justifies it.”