A DeKalb County jury sentenced a man convicted of killing two police officers to life in prison without parole on Friday.
William Woodard, 31, was convicted last week in the murders of Eric Barker and Ricky Bryant Jr. Woodard claimed he shot them in self-defense after the officers confronted him at an apartment complex where they were working off-duty security jobs in 2008.
During closing arguments of Thursday, prosecutors urged the jury to give Woodard the death sentence for killing the two officers. As prosecutor Don Geary spoke of the two slain officers, he told jurors that Woodard brutally murdered the officers, and that Woodard had bragged of "holding court in the street," because as a convicted felon, he did not want return to jail.
Defense attorneys asked jurors for mercy, pointed to Woodard's background of neglect, abuse and exposure to violence.
The jurors had to decide whether to give Woodard life imprisonment, life in prison without parole, or sentence him to death. They began their deliberations on Thursday afternoon. It took about 7.5 hours to reach a decision.
Woodard showed no emotion or reaction as the sentencing was read on Friday afternoon.
Grieving family members of the slain officers said they were not surprised by the jury's decision.
"I have mixed emotions right now. I'm angry. I'm sad. Right now, I just feel like my children were cheated. He gets to get up tomorrow – breath, touch and feel. My kids' father will never get to do that again," said Yolanda Barker, Eric Barker's widow.
"Now this man will get to suffer and that's what I think he deserves, like our family has been suffering. I know that death would be too final. I need for him to go through some things, because we are still suffering," said Hilda Barker, the victim's mother.
Woodard's defense attorney Dwight Thomas said it was a tough case.
"The jury has decided that the appropriate punishment in this case is for Mr. Woodard to remain in prison for the rest of his natural life. That is not going to be a cakewalk. That is not going to be easy. He's going to have any good days," said Thomas.
Prosecutors said that the lack of emotion shown by Woodard during the trial shows that prison is the right place for him.