Washington - One of the most vivid memories Sharon Jones has from the funeral of her 15-year-old son Malek Mercer four years ago was the funeral director allowing her to tuck him neatly into his casket before the lid was closed.
Standing in front of a District of Columbia Superior Court judge Tuesday at the sentencing of the man who fatally shot her son, Jones shared how that memory was reminiscent of when she tucked Malek into bed each night when he was a toddler. The killer robbed Jones of any more memories of her youngest son, she said.
"I'll never have memories of him turning 16, then graduating high school, going off to college, getting his first job, getting married or giving me grandchildren," Jones said while sobbing.
Judge Craig Iscoe sentenced 26-year-old Derryck Decuir to 34 years in prison in the 2015 fatal shooting of the teen.
In May, a jury found Decuir guilty of second-degree murder. Two previous juries were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, resulting in the judges declaring mistrials.
Jones attended all three trials. "It was so hard, but it's over. I had to be there. I wanted justice," Jones said.
During the first trial, Decuir was convicted of possessing a weapon and obstructing justice after prosecutors say he tried to get his friends to lie to authorities and hide the gun used in the shooting. Decuir was sentenced to 23 years in prison following that trial in 2017. With Tuesday's sentence, the judge added another 11 years.
Prosecutors argued that Malek was dead within nine minutes of randomly meeting Decuir at a Southeast Washington bus stop. At around 12:30 on the morning of June 16, 2015, the two were waiting for the bus, when at one point Decuir complemented Malek on his designer Versace belt, both Malek's and Decuir's friends testified.
It was then when one of Decuir's friends joked, "Man, what are you doing looking at that dude's butt?" Everyone in the group laughed, including Malek. Prosecutors said Decuir became angry and embarrassed and decided at that moment to kill Malek.
As Malek and his friend got off the bus, Decuir followed. As Malek began walking, Decuir pulled out a gun from his waistband and shot Malek in the back of his neck as Malek began to run.
But Decuir repeatedly told jurors he shot Malek in self defense, after Malek pulled a gun from his duffle bag.
One of Malek's friends testified Malek was carrying a gun in his duffle bag. But the gun was never found. Decuir's lawyers argued Malek's friends picked up the gun after Malek was shot.
At the sentencing, Decuir apologized to Jones and his own family. "Place yourself in my shoes for that scary moment," he said. "I did not kill Mr. Mercer out of rage, vengeance or embarrassment."
Evidence presented by attorney included photographs of both Malek and Decuir posting pictures and videos of themselves holding guns on social media.
Decuir's attorney, Dana Page, of the District's Public Defender Service, used the case to criticize what she has perceived as a growing "culture of guns" in the District among many young people.
"This culture of guns is what has gotten us here. We need to change this culture of weapon possession."
The Washington Post