WEST PALM BEACH —
For the murder of his friend over a $40 watch, a 22-year-old Boynton Beach man will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The life sentence for Derron Allen came just moments after a jury Friday convicted him of first-degree murder in the death of Traivis Bell, found in the kitchen of his Delray Beach home with multiple gunshot wounds in April 2011.
A 12-member jury delivered the verdict after just one hour and 20 minutes of deliberation in the four-day trial, in which prosecutors' main witness was Allen's girlfriend, Latrice Whilby, the only eyewitness in the case.
Prosecutors Ardienne Ellis and Lauren Godden told jurors Allen and Bell had a dispute over a $40 watch that Bell would not return to Allen until he was repayed at least part of the $40 that Allen owed him.
Allen's attorney, Clement Dean, told jurors that Allen did not commit the killing, alleging Whilby and her brother had framed him. Jurors ultimately rejected that theory.
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sentenced Allen to life in prison immediately after the verdict. The crowd of Bell's relatives gathered in the courtroom emerged cheering the verdict and sentence just moments after some jurors had left the courthouse in tears.
"My cousin got justice," one woman shouted over and over into her cell phone. "He can rest in peace now. You hear me?"
Allen's mother, seated on a bench outside the courthouse, watched the processional with tears in her eyes. As Allen's other relatives emerged, she wrapped her arms around one of them and dissolved in tears.
Dean could still hear the mother's wails as he made his way back to his car.
"I thought we had a shot," Dean said of the case. "But this is a tragedy all the way around. One family lost their child, and now another family has lost their son — maybe not his life, but certainly his future."
Dean said he respected the jury's verdict, although he didn't agree with it. He said Whilby's testimony as well as testimony from other witnesses proved insurmountable in the end.
After the verdict, Ellis said the fact that the two young men were friends further complicated things for the two families. It was a case that could have gone either way, Ellis and Godden said, but they shared in the joy Bell's family felt at the jury's decision.
"She's right. It was justice," Ellis said of the words Bell's cousin spoke into her cell phone. "That's exactly what they got. And they deserved it for what they went through."