Hudson receives 30 years in killings


Published: Friday, April 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 31, 2005 at 11:15 p.m.
A Lake Wales man who faced Alachua County juries three times for the 2003 shooting deaths of two men received a 30-year prison sentence Thursday.
After two mistrials in which jurors could not reach a unanimous decision, a third jury last month convicted Willie J. Hudson, 30, of two counts of manslaughter for the deaths of John B. Adkins, 28, of Winter Haven, and Kevin Harris, 29, of Gainesville.
Assistant State Attorney Geoffrey C. Fleck sought a 45-year sentence for Hudson.
"Mr. Hudson's life reveals an unending line of criminality and violence," the prosecutor told Alachua County Judge Mary Day Coker.
Hudson had previously been convicted of battery, grand theft and burglary, Fleck said.
But Hudson's defense attorney, Stephen Bernstein, asked the judge to issue a concurrent 15-year sentence per charge that would reflect the compromise verdict of the jury. The state had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but jurors returned a guilty verdict on the lesser manslaughter charge.
Coker took a five-minute recess during the hearing before issuing a sentence down the middle between the prosecution and the defense, ordering Hudson to consecutively serve 15 years per manslaughter charge. The judge also ordered a 15-year sentence to be served concurrently on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Harris' sister Eyvette Harris, 35, of Gainesville told the judge that Hudson should be put behind bars for as long as possible.
"I'm asking that he be stopped," she said. "He's still lying about the fact he did this."
Coker also heard a victim advocate read a written statement from Adkins' older sister, who had raised her brother.
"There is not one day that goes by that I wake up praying that my brother's death was a bad nightmare and he will walk in the door and say, 'Hey baby,' and hug me," wrote Adkins' sister, Irene Smith of Polk County.
At trial, the prosecution had alleged that Hudson fired a gun during a botched robbery in Gainesville.
Harris had planned to make a drug deal and was supposed to be carrying $8,000 when he got into a car with Adkins and Hudson, Fleck told jurors. Hudson attacked Harris, who tried to fight back but was shot. Adkins also was shot by a stray bullet fired during the struggle. The car then crashed into the NE 5th Avenue home of Gainesville City Commissioner Craig Lowe.
But three juries apparently could not reconcile the state's evidence with the defense's case and the third jury ended up convicting him on the lesser charges.
Bernstein attacked the credibility and motives of the prosecution witnesses and highlighted a lack of physical evidence to back up their testimony.
Hudson will receive credit toward his sentence for the 741 days he has already spent in jail awaiting trial.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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