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Jury recommends life sentence for man convicted of killing 2 ex-football players, third man

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OPELIKA, Alabama — A jury on Thursday recommended life without parole for a Montgomery man convicted in a fatal shooting that killed two Auburn football players and third man.

The jury voted 7-5 on the sentence for Desmonte Leonard, 25, who was convicted earlier this week in the deaths of ex-Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips in June 2012. Demario Pitts of Opelika also was killed and three others were wounded.

PHOTO: Desmonte Leonard points to family members as he leave the courtroom after a jury found him guilty of capital murder, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Opelika, Ala., in the killing two former Auburn University football players and a third man. (AP Photo/Opelika-Auburn News, Todd J. Van Emst)
Desmonte Leonard points to family members as he leave the courtroom after a jury found him guilty of capital murder, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Opelika, Ala., in the killing two former Auburn University football players and a third man. (AP Photo/Opelika-Auburn News, Todd J. Van Emst)

Leonard was convicted of capital murder, three counts of assault and attempted murder. He faced either a life sentence or the death penalty.

District Attorney Robbie Treese told the Opelika-Auburn News that he sought the death penalty but was satisfied with the jury's recommendation. Treese said he was also proud of the victims' relatives — many of whom attended every day of the trial and sentencing.

"It's a difficult time for the family members, for the victims that survived these attacks and I have never been more proud of a group of individuals supporting us in what we do," Treese said. "It's very moving."

Leonard's defense attorneys argued during the trial that a fight at a party led up to the shooting and Leonard fired in self-defense. Prosecutors disputed that and said Leonard aimed at the victims.

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