Guilty Verdict Handed Down in Shooting Death of 13-Year-Old Caught in Gun Battle

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Datrail Clayton showed no emotion as his fate was read in a Dallas County courtroom Friday afternoon.

District Judge Lela Lawrence Mays read the verdict handed down just before 4 p.m.

Jurors found the 24-year-old guilty of murder in the June 2019 shooting death of Malik Tyler.

A jury returned a guilty verdict in the shooting death of 13-year-old Malik Tyler. He was shot and killed in 2019, an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of a gun battle.

The 13-year-old was walking home with friends after buying snacks at their corner store when they were caught in the middle of a gunfight between a rolling car and Clayton who got out of a parked car to shoot back as the children and others ran for cover.

A shot hit Malik in the upper back.

He stumbled to his Pleasant Grove apartment complex where a security guard tried to save his life.

Clayton’s emotional and contentious trial began Tuesday and ended Friday with closing arguments from both sides.

The suspect chose not to testify in his defense.

Jurors would decide between murder, manslaughter or an acquittal.

Defense attorney Paul Johnson’s formidable fight pushed back on forensics that could only conclude the bullet that killed Malik is ‘consistent’ with bullets used in Clayton’s gun.

Johnson grilled those called to testify, including Malik’s friends who witnessed their friend’s death and a man who admitted his friend began shooting from inside the car they were riding in.

Johnson argued whether there was a second shooter from the rolling car that may have caused Malik’s death.

Simple physics, prosecutors said, prove it was Clayton’s bullet fired toward the fleeing car and kids running away hit Malik in the upper back.

Johnson told jurors it was not Clayton’s intent to kill Malik, but rather had the right to defend himself from the random attack.

Prosecutors stressed it was indeed Clayton’s intent to kill when he chose to get out of the car he was in even though it was never hit and firing six shots.

“They’re shooting at the people in front of the store,” said prosecutor Jason Fine during his closing argument. “People in front of the store, also reasonable prudent people, who were actually in a worse situation because they were not in a car, they all scatter and leave and take cover because they’re being shot at. What does [Clayton] do?” He gets out of the safety of a vehicle and he starts running at the threat. That’s not self-defense. That’s retribution.”

Fine and prosecutor Tommy Adams told jurors the suspect who started the shooting will also have his day in court. But that today was Clayton’s turn to face the consequences for his actions.

In his closing statement, Johnson referred to that decision to get out and begin shooting saying, “Was what [Clayton] did the smartest thing a person could do? No. I’m not here to stand before you and say it was. But in order to find that he is guilty of a crime, you got to find it was completely unreasonably and I submit to you when someone is unloading a weapon in your direction, the instinct is to defend yourself.”

Johnson asked the jury to find Clayton not guilty, or at most, guilty of manslaughter.

“It’s a tragedy. Don’t compound tragedy by throwing another young man’s life away,” said Johnson in his closing statement.

The sentencing phase begins Monday.

Clayton faces five years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Malik’s mother is expected to provide a victim impact statement at the conclusion of the trial.

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