Though he may never have fired a shot, 21-year-old Jabez Joseph Batiste was convicted by a Charleston County jury Thursday of murdering two men outside a West Ashley McDonald's early this year.
The conviction followed testimony that Batiste planned to set the victims up during a drug deal.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict against Batiste in the shooting deaths of 20-year-olds Kareem Shakoor and Channing Walker. Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. sentenced Batiste to two concurrent 40-year prison terms.
The jury acquitted him of two additional charges of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
"It's probably a textbook example of the senselessness of drugs and what happens when people get involved with drugs," 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Nathan Williams said in his closing argument.
The shootings happened in the McDonald's parking lot at the intersection of Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Orange Grove Road about 8 p.m. Jan. 4.
Evidence presented during the four-day trial showed that Batiste had called Shakoor earlier that evening and planned to buy Ecstasy. Shakoor drove a Honda Civic to the restaurant and took Walker with him. Batiste borrowed a Buick from his girlfriend and took along three people: Quentin Rolf Jenkins, 19; Travis Delaney Simmons, 18; and Bernard Eric Green, 19.
Murder charges are pending against Jenkins and Simmons, while Green was indicted on a charge of misprision of a felony after murder charges against him were dropped, Williams said.
Simmons, a West Ashley High School student at the time of the shootings, drove the Buick. He appeared on the stand Wednesday to testify that Batiste planned to rob Shakoor of about 20 Ecstasy pills. Green also testified.
Batiste's defense attorney, Bentley Price, conceded during his closing argument that Batiste had planned to make a drug deal and was present for the shootings. But he argued that violence was not part of the plan and that his client should not be found guilty of murder. Price said afterward he has been asked to file an appeal.
Each victim was hit with at least four bullets from a 9 mm handgun and possibly another gun. Testimony from Simmons and others suggested that Jenkins was the shooter. In court, Williams repeatedly accused Jenkins of murder and referred to Green and Simmons as "accessories."
An unusual aspect of the case was that many of the victims and suspects were enrolled in school and came from supportive families.
Batiste attended Denmark Technical College. Walker, originally from St. Matthews, went to Trident Tech. Shakoor, described as a talented artist with ambitions of becoming a hip-hop star, was from downtown Charleston but had been living in North Charleston.