William O. Dickerson told a Charleston County jury "I'm not a bad guy" Thursday. But after deliberating for almost five hours, the jury agreed he did some very bad things.
The 12-member jury found Dickerson guilty of murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in the 2006 death of one-time friend Gerard Roper, whose death even Dickerson's attorney described as a horror.
The guilty verdicts mean that the jury and Circuit Judge R. Markley Dennis will begin a second phase of the death-penalty trial Monday.
While Dickerson did not testify, and was not subject to cross examination, he addressed the jury for about five minutes using a loud voice and waving his arms.
"I left Charleston, South Carolina, in fear for my life. If I'm guilty of anything, why would I come back?" he asked. "How could I do all this by myself? How could I?"
He then told the jury he knew Roper and his mother and has eaten at their home. "If I did this, I will make amends."
He also thanked the jury: "My life is on the line. Please look me in the eye. I'm a man."
The state's case was based on witnesses' testimony, blood and other evidence found at the scene, cell phone records and a recording of a phone call in which Dickerson talked about hurting Roper.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson suggested Dickerson could have acted out of anger because he found a video on his cell phone of his girlfriend having sex with another man, but the motive in the 18-hour-long torture-killing never became clear.
"We may never know exactly why. We're here to figure out who and what," Wilson said. "Don't get bogged down in the whys. ... These people lived in a haze of cocaine."
She replayed an audiotape made of Dickerson talking about his torture of Roper, which included sodomizing him. "Gerard is worse than beat up," Dickerson said on the tape.
Jeff Bloom, one of Dickerson's defense lawyers, accepted the jurors' verdicts. "They have perhaps the hardest job in the whole courtroom," he said. "We've accepted their decision, and we're ready to move on."
Three others, including Dickerson's half-brother, also face charges in the case, but Wilson told the jury, "It doesn't matter who struck the fatal blow. ... This is not their day in court. This is William Dickerson's day in court."
His attorneys cast doubt on some of the evidence and questioned whether Dickerson was more at fault than the others who went in and out of the James Island apartment.
"William Dickerson was handed to law enforcement as the sole actor in this kidnapping, beating and ultimately killing," defense attorney Andrew Carroll said. "Folks, this case is absolutely riveted with reasonable doubt."
The punishment phase of Charleston County's first death penalty case since 2002 is expected to take most of next week.