VERDICT: Judge to guilty Zyderrious Platt, 'You're lucky they didn't seek the death penalty'

ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 27, 2011 

Deputies surrounded Zyderrious Platt as he heard the judge read his guilty verdicts for murder and feticide Thursday evening.

The 33-year-old Platt, who on Tuesday had almost been attacked by his victim’s brother before trial began, didn’t move.

Jurors took less than an hour and a half to convict Platt of the October 2009 murder, feticide and aggravated assault of his wife, 26-year-old Jilani Platt, and her 10-week, unborn child, JaLon Elizabeth King.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters then sentenced Platt to two consecutive life sentences, plus five additional years on a weapons charge.

“You’re lucky they didn’t seek the death penalty against you,” Peters said. “I didn’t see any remorse at all. I think it’s a just verdict.”

Peters heard from Jilani Platt’s mother, Judy King, before he announced his sentence. She began by quoting Psalms 19:14, and she told Peters that she hasn’t forgotten God.

“I have missed my daughter, and I will always miss my daughter,” she said. “The damage will be there for as long as I live. Zyderrious Platt deserves the same lifelong sentence.”

Jurors decided that Platt argued with his wife about rent, choked her and left their apartment to purchase Black & Mild cigars on Oct. 3, 2009.

When he returned, he found her at the base of the stairs. He wrapped her in a comforter, took her to a retention pond near Schatulga Road and shot her in the head, leaving her.

Zyderrious Platt opted against testifying in his own defense.

Columbus Public Defender Robert Wadkins told Peters that his client can’t be released on parole until he’s served at least 30 years. Two consecutive life sentences mean Platt must serve 60 years before he’s eligible for early release.

“A sentence of 60 years, I think it’s unrealistic to think he could even do all that because he wouldn’t live that long,” Wadkins said.

King asked Peters for consecutive life sentences. Assistant District Attorney Michael Craig asked the judge to follow her wishes.

The trial was streamed live over the Internet. It was the first such proceeding to be broadcast in Muscogee County. At the time of the verdict, about 300 viewers were watching.

“Zyderrious Platt turned his back on God when he made the choice,” King said. “He tried to cover up his tracks with lies, more lies and even more lies. He deserves this time. Nothing else, absolutely nothing else will do.”

The arguments

The prosecutor’s voice broke as he told jurors about the homicide of Jilani Platt.

Craig said on Tuesday that the 26-year-old was studying to be a pharmacist. During his closing arguments on Thursday in the murder trial of her husband, he showed jurors an autopsy photograph.

“Bear with me,” Craig said, his voice cracking. “These trials are tough. A victim has rights. A victim has feelings. A victim has a voice.”

Craig talked about the events that led to Platt’s arrest: Jilani Platt and a friend had gone out the night of her disappearance. A neighbor heard loud noises from the Platt’s apartment that night. Zyderrious Platt told his wife’s mother that Jilani had left their home after an argument, and that she was gone when he returned.

“Who’s our perpetrator?” Craig asked. “Who is he? Who is Zyderrious Platt? He admits to strangling her, to carrying her to a retention pond, to weighing her down with a cinder block. That is Zyderrious Platt.”

Jilani’s mother was worried and she called police, who began canvassing the Crystal Drive area. That’s when they spotted Zyderrious Platt carrying a garbage bag holding a 9 mm Luger to a Dumpster, Craig said.

Zyderrious Platt’s attorneys argued that he thought his wife was dead when he took her to the pond, and that his gun accidentally discharged when he tried to unload it. If he believed his wife was already dead when he accidentally shot her, then he didn’t have intent and he didn’t murder his wife, defense attorney Robin King said.

Craig pointed to the testimony of the doctor who performed Jilani Platt’s autopsy. X-rays showed no injuries, no marks to her throat and no disease.

“There was nothing wrong with her, nothing prior to the gunshot wound to her head,” Craig said. “She had hemorrhaging in the brain. To have that, you’ve got to have a heartbeat. The baby was alive at that time. He told you, she died of a gunshot would to the head.”

The defense

King told jurors that they couldn’t base their verdict on emotion, and she said they must decide whether prosecutors proved every aspect of her client’s indictment.

That includes venue, or whether the alleged crime happened in Muscogee County. King said that no witness proved the retention pond was in Columbus.

King also said that prosecutors had to prove intent. Zyderrious Platt faces charges of malice murder and felony murder. For malice murder, he must have malice.

King said there was no malice, because her client already thought Jilani Platt was dead when he accidentally shot her.

For jurors to convict on the felony murder count, they must decide that an aggravated assault occurred that involved a gun. There would be no assault if Platt was already dead when she was shot.

“Was there any intention to shoot that firearm?” King asked. “Have these certain elements – venue, intent, accident – have they been proven beyond any reasonable doubt?”

Craig called the defense’s arguments “smoke and mirrors,” ending his comments by repeating that Jilani Platt has a voice.

“And that voice is calling out to you from beyond the grave,” he said. “She’s screaming out for justice.”

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