Convicted killer escapes death penalty for second time - FOX10 News | WALA

Convicted killer escapes death penalty for second time

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Derrick Penn (Mobile County Metro Jail) Derrick Penn (Mobile County Metro Jail)

A Mobile man has escaped the death penalty for the second time, after Judge Rick Stout overturned a jury's recommendation -- instead giving Derrick Penn life without parole. 

Penn was found guilty and recommended the death penalty for a second time back in October for the 2009 killing of his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. 

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich says justice was not served and the loved ones left behind once again re-victimized. 

"What's the purpose of having a jury... If we are going to single-handedly just dismiss not one jury, but two juries," said Rich.

Penn shot and killed his ex-wife Janet Penn and her new boyfriend Demetrius Powe after breaking into her home in May 2009. The crime played out on a 911 call.

"And what is even worse is when he stood before the judge at sentencing a couple of weeks ago he didn't say I was sorry, he didn't apologize to these victim's family members. He continued to blame the dead victims as they lay in their graves.... And even after that - Judge Stout gave him life without parole," said Rich. 

Jennifer Chavers was the jury foreman and like Rich is shocked by the judge's decision. 

"I just was like you are kidding me - what? Where did that come from? I don't understand."

Chavers says the most compelling evidence was threatening voicemails left by Penn in the weeks leading up to the murders and the chilling 911 call. 

"We heard their screams and grunts and the shots and that's really what it came down to -- having the crimes being committed as well as the things leading up to it,' said Chavers. 

Chavers says they had several young people on the jury. "We had a 19 year old, 20 year old, 23 year old, and another juror who was 26 or 27. None of them had ever been on a jury before, and only one of them was dismissed as an alternate. So we had a lot of young people on this capital murder jury," said Chavers. 

She says while the "death recommendation" came easier for some, one of the younger jurors struggled with the decision. 

"It weighed on him... He was sitting there like this with his hands over his head looking down. I don't even remember how long he was like that...  and much older jurors were just like 'sigh' ... You know very done. Done! We are done! We are so done.. And this kid is just like -- he was just like whatever - it doesn't matter... And I'm like no this does matter - you're going to remember this for the rest of your life. You take your time. We have all of the time in the world. The judge already told us -- that they are on our time now," recalled Chavers. 

While Chavers still believes in the process, she's heartbroken over the judge's decision.

"I don't know he listened to that same 911 tape... It's horrifying. It's horrifying," said Chavers. "I have to think he thought long and hard about what we said... And what the first jury said - which is the same thing we said."

We did reach out to get Judge Stout's reaction and he told us "no comment." 

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