FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A 24-year-old man sentenced to life in prison for murder will spend less than the next 14 years behind bars instead, thanks to a hearing Monday required by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cameron Cordney Barron was 17 in October 2005 when, according to authorities, he shot and killed a close friend, 18-year-old Fort Pierce resident Dontavious Wilson. A jury convicted Barron of first-degree murder with a firearm, tampering with a witness and aggravated assault with a firearm in January 2008.
Circuit Judge James Midelis sentenced the then-19-year-old Fort Pierce resident to life in prison without parole, the automatic penalty at the time.
Last June, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws requiring life sentences without parole for juveniles constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling paved the way for Florida prisoners who committed murders as juveniles to be resentenced. Judges may uphold life-without-parole sentences but must consider a juvenile's age and the nature of the crime at sentencing.
At Monday's hearing, Circuit Judge Robert Belanger followed a plea deal worked out by prosecution and defense attorneys and sentenced Barron to 21 years in prison for the murder and 15 years each for the tampering and assault charges, with the terms for all three crimes to run concurrently. Because Barron gets credit for the more than seven years he's spent behind bars since his arrest, he's scheduled to be released from prison in October 2026.
Belanger also ordered Barron to serve five years of probation after his release from prison and warned the defendant he could be resentenced to the life term if he violates terms of probation.
Barron at first balked, saying he didn't know he was at risk of another life sentence, adding, "The police can come to your house for anything."
Defense attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. assured his client the threat of the original sentence for probation violation was standard procedure; and Belanger added, "Whether you violate (probation) is up to you."
Exactly what preceded the shooting is unclear. Assistant State Attorney Bernard Romero argued at Barron's trial that Barron and Wilson began fighting over either sharing a McDonald's sandwich and french fries or about whether to leave a porch light on at the Avenue G house where the shooting took place.
Barron reportedly shot Wilson three times, once in the chest and twice in the back.
Barron maintained his innocence during his trial and at Monday's hearing when confronted by his victim's father, William Wilson.
"I just want to ask you, 'Why?' " Wilson asked. "You hurt yourself. You hurt your mother and dad. You hurt the whole Wilson family. ... Your family didn't raise you to be a murderer, and we didn't raise Dontavious to be a murder victim."
Barron told Belanger, "I didn't do it," adding that he took the plea deal because it was in his best interest.
As Barron was being led away, members of his family shouted encouragement — "We love you, Cordney" and "Stay strong, Cordney" — and one relative kept repeating, "He didn't do it."
Members of the Wilson and Barron families had been seated in separate rows of the courtroom, but as they neared the doorway, they mingled, which led to shoving and shouting.
It took several hectic minutes for bailiffs to pull the families apart and send the Barron family outside the courtroom. Wilson family members stayed behind until the Barrons left the courthouse.