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Judge sentences Christopher Vasata to life in prison

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Posted at 5:18 AM, Jun 27, 2019

The jury's vote was not unanimous for the death sentence in the penalty phase of Christopher Vasata's murder trial. After the jury's decision was made public, a judge sentenced Vasata to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Although the verdict form showed jurors agreed the prosecutors proved the aggravating factors to justify the death penalty, they could not all come to an agreement.

At least one juror voted to impose a sentence life in prison without parole.

During closing arguments, Vasata's public defender asked jurors to show him mercy and allow him to live the rest of his life in prison.

In the two-day sentencing phase, the defense team called on those closest to Vasata, his family and friends, to testify to his character.

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"He's caring, he's protective, he's my only big brother and the best big brother I could ever ask for," said Rebecca Vasata, his younger sister.

The defense team also brought in a neurological expert to talk about the impact a car crash from 2012 could have had on Vasata's brain.

"It's just that, in the moment quick decision making, that's impaired," said Dr. Mark Rubino, a neurologist who testified as an expert witness.

But prosecutor Jill Richstone's cross-examination tried to show there was no evidence the car crash produced a traumatic head injury.

"This is a minor injury, that it's only five pages worth of a medical report, correct?" asked Richstone.

During closing arguments the prosecutor reminded jurors of the "cold, calculated, and pre-meditated" actions that led to the deaths of the three victims on Super Bowl Sunday in 2017, two victims who were not even targets.

Richstone reminded jurors that Sean Henry, who was a target, was shot 17 times.

The verdict form suggests the jurors believed those aggravating factors outweighed any mitigating factors presented by the defense team during the sentencing phase of the trial, but still chose life in prison.

Vasata was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for three counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Brandi El-Salhy, Sean Henry, and Kelli Doherty. He was also sentenced to life for attempted first degree murder and 5 years for grand theft auto, all connected to the shooting on Mohawk Street two years ago.

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