Sean Taylor stretches before a Redskins game. The star defensive back was slain in a botched robbery at his Miami-area home in November 2007. On Tuesday, the accused mastermind of the plot was convicted of murder and burglary, and sentenced to life in prison.
Jason Mitchell, accused in the murder of NFL player Sean Taylor, stands as the jury comes in for final statements by attorneys, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Miami. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Defendant Jason Mitchell, accused in the murder of NFL player Sean Taylor, in court Tuesday, June 3, 2014, for the start of his trial. With him are lawyer Robert Barrar and legal intern Giulia Fantacci. (David Ovalle/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Jackie Garcia Haley, the one-time girlfriend of slain NFL star Sean Taylor, testified Tuesday, June 3, 2014, about the November 2007 night that he was shot and killed by an intruder. (David Ovalle/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Eric Rivera Jr. is moved to the courtroom during his murder trial in Miami, Florida, on Monday, November 4, 2013. Rivera is charged with killing football player Sean Taylor. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Jackie Garcia Haley, the girlfriend of slain Washington Redskins football player Sean Taylor, keeps her composure as she leaves the courtroom after Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy imposed a 57-year prison sentence on Eric Rivera Jr., 23. (Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Pedro Taylor listens to the verdict in Eric Rivera Jr.'s murder trial in Miami, Florida, on Monday, November 4, 2013. Rivera Jr. was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Taylor's son Sean Taylor, an NFL player. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Eric Rivera Jr. is being fingerprinted after a jury found him guilty with second-degree murder in the death of football player Sean Taylor in Miami, Florida. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Sean Taylor's girlfriend, Jackie Garcia Haley, listens as Judge Dennis Murphy wraps up court for the day, after the jury finished a full day of deliberations with out reaching a verdict in the Sean Taylor murder trial in Miami, Florida, Thursday, October 31, 2013. Eric Rivera, Jr., is on trial for the murder of football star Sean Taylor. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Sean Taylor's girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, testifies at Eric Rivera's trial on Monday, October 21, 2013, in Miami, Florida. Rivera is charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary in the November 2007 killing of Taylor, the former University of Miami player and hometown football hero whose slaying shocked the nation. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2007 file photo, Eric Rivera, Jr. listens to Lee Circuit Judge Hugh Starnes during an appearance at the Lee County Justice Center in Fort Myers, Fla. The man accused of fatally shooting Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor during a 2007 burglary has fired his lawyer one month before his murder trial. Rivera Jr. gave the Miami-Dade County, Fla., judge a letter Friday, March 16, 2012 explaining his reasons for firing Quinton Pitts, an experienced defense lawyer. (AP Photo/The News-Press, Stephen Hayford, Pool File)
Judge Dennis J Murphy stands at the bench during the trial of Eric Rivera Jr. for the murder fo Washington redskins star Sean Taylor Wednesday, Oct, 23, 2013, at criminal court in Miami. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, Hector Gambino, Pool)
Jason Mitchell, 19, left; Charles Wardlow, 18, center; and Venjah Hunte, 20, appear before a judge via a video link from the Miami Dade County Jail in Miami, in this three-picture combo, Tuesday Dec. 4, 2007. The three men charged with murdering Sean Taylor were denied bail Tuesday. (AP Photo/Lynn Sladky)
** FILE ** In this Nov. 26, 2007 file photo, a Miami-Dade County Police officer walks back to a house owned by Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor while investigating a shooting at the home in Palmetto Bay, Fla. In the year since the murder of Taylor, Jacksonville's Richard Collier has been paraylized as a result of a drive-by shooting. But while their Redskins and Jaguars teammates are concerned about their safety, most view the two tragic incidents as random acts of violence. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
Members of Florida City Police department gather at the Miami, Florida, home of Pedro Taylor, who is the current police chief at Florida City Tuesday, November 27, 2007. Taylor's son, Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, was shot Monday at his home in Miami, Florida, and died early Tuesday morning from the gunshot wound. (Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
Washington Redskins' teammate Clinton Portis walks offstage after speaking at the Sean Taylor funeral service at the Pharmed Arena in the campus of Florida International University, Monday, December 3, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - FEBRUARY 10: Young fans hold up a sign in memory of Sean Taylor #21 of the NFC's Washington Redskins during the game against the AFC at the 2008 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on February 10, 2008 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Paul Spinelli/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 30: Sean Taylor's parents Peter and Donna watch the unfurling of their son's banner inducting him into the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame before the game against the New York Giants at FedExField on November 30, 2008 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, right, speaks to guests during services for Sean Taylor at the Pharmed Arena in the campus of Florida International University, Monday, December 3, 2007 in Miami, Florida. At left is a translator for the deaf. (Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
MIAMI - DECEMBER 03: Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Larry Coker arrives at funeral services for Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins at Pharmed Arena on December 3, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Taylor died November 27, one day after being shot at his home in Miami. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
MIAMI - DECEMBER 03: The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrives to funeral services for safety Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins at Pharmed Arena on December 3, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Taylor died November 27, one day after being shot at his home in Miami. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
A Washington Redskins' fan shows his feelings before a game against the Buffalo Bills about safety Sean Taylor who was killed this week at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, Sunday, December 2, 2007. (Photo by George Bridges/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 02: Fans of the Washington Redskins pay their respects at the memorial for the late Sean Taylor before the game against the Buffalo Bills on December 2, 2007 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Taylor died November 27, a day after being shot in his home. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Nov 27, 2007 - Miami, Florida, USA - Washington Redskins star defender SEAN TAYLOR died early Tuesday morning after being shot Monday by intruders at his home in Miami. The 24-year-old safety died in a Florida hospital where he underwent nearly seven hours of emergency surgery Monday to repair a severed femoral artery. Taylor and his fiancee and their 18-month-old daughter, were in the bedroom when a disturbance was heard in the living room. Eight days before the fatal shooting, an intruder pried open a window and went through drawers and a safe in the home and also left a knife on a bed. Taylor was the fifth pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. PICTURED: April 30th, 2004 - Washington, DC; Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins during mini camp. (Photo by Bob Leverone/Sporting News via Getty Images)
ASHBURN, VA - NOVEMBER 27: Washington Redskins fan Timothy McLeod kneels before Sean Taylor's number 21 at a makeshift memorial for the slain football player at Redskins Park November 27, 2007 in Ashburn, Virginia. Taylor died this morning after being shot in his Miami, Florida home yesterday morning. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
BACK TO SLIDE
BY CURT ANDERSON
AP LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER
MIAMI (AP) -- A man identified by prosecutors as the greedy organizer of a bungled 2007 Miami-area burglary that ended with the fatal shooting of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor was convicted Tuesday of murder and burglary, and immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole.
A 12-person jury deliberated nearly four hours before finding Jason Mitchell, 25, guilty of first-degree felony murder and armed burglary. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy swiftly imposed the mandatory life sentence for murder, plus 40 more years for the burglary conviction.
Although trial testimony showed Mitchell did not fire the fatal shot, prosecutors say he is equally responsible for the slaying under the law.
Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin said Mitchell hatched the plot that eventually involved five Fort Myers-area men after spending time at Taylor's home near Miami, where he saw the player giving friends and relatives thousands of dollars in cash. Rubin said Mitchell initially tried and failed to burglarize the home alone in mid-November 2007, returning with the group on Thanksgiving weekend to finish the job.
"It doesn't matter whether they planned to kill him (Taylor) or intended to kill him, he died as a result of that burglary and they are all responsible for it," Rubin told the 12-person jury in closing arguments. "At the center of it all was Jason Mitchell."
Mitchell did not testify in his own defense but he did confess to police in a sworn, videotaped statement. The man blamed for shooting Taylor, Eric Rivera Jr., was convicted last year of second-degree murder and sentenced to 57 years behind bars. Mitchell's lawyer, Robert Barrar, said Mitchell should be held responsible only for burglary, not for Rivera's actions.
"Sure Jason Mitchell was there. But Eric Rivera did it on his own, on a whim," Barrar said. "Jason Mitchell was not a part of any plan to kill anybody."
Mitchell showed no emotion when the verdict was read.
Taylor, 24, was shot in the upper thigh after confronting the group of burglars with a machete outside his bedroom door. The bullet severed Taylor's femoral artery, causing him to quickly bleed to death. In the bedroom when the shooting happened were Taylor's girlfriend and their infant daughter.
Police say the burglars thought Taylor would be out of town at a Redskins game, but he was home nursing a knee injury.
Aside from the confession, investigators found shoe prints at Taylor's house that matched Mitchell's sneakers and had cell phone evidence showing that Mitchell phoned another member of the group in the vicinity of the slaying that night.
Three other men were charged in the case and two are awaiting trial. Venjah Hunte, 25, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary charges in a deal that calls for a 29-year prison sentence.
Taylor was a Pro Bowl safety who had starred at the University of Miami. A first-round Redskins draft pick in 2004, Taylor signed an $18 million contract with the team and was becoming one of the NFL's top defensive players when he was slain.
"He had everything to live for," Rubin said. "Sean Taylor was on top of the world."