After just six minutes of deliberation, a Dallas County jury has sentenced 36-year-old Antonio Cochran to life in prison and fined him $10,000 for the 2015 murder of 18-year-old Zoe Hastings Monday.
Jurors deliberated for nearly 23 hours over several days before reaching a guilty verdict on Saturday. They took only minutes to determine his sentence Monday afternoon.
The Dallas County District Attorney's Office had previously reversed its plan to seek the death penalty after experts found Cochran is intellectually disabled. The jury of eight women and four men found Cochran guilty of murder, not capital murder which would have guaranteed a life sentence.
“There are no words that can express our sorrow to the Hastings family for having to endure such a traumatic and tragic loss. We will continue to pray for them and while we cannot bring Zoe back, we hope this outcome will help them heal,” Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said. “On behalf of my team who worked on this case, I want to thank the jury for their service. Their sentence ensures that Antonio Cochran will no longer have the opportunity to harm another person again.”
Johnson also thanked the Dallas Police Department’s homicide unit for their role in the investigation.
Authorities said Cochran abducted Hastings — who went missing after she had stopped to return a rented DVD while on her way to church — drove her to a nearby creek bed and sexually assaulted her before killing her.
“Zoe was taken from us, this sweet, innocent girl,” said Patrick Kirlin, lead prosecutor. Kirlin urged the jury to consider a life sentence based on the crime and the potential danger that Cochran posed to the community.
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Jurors spent much of Saturday in deliberations. After the jury asked another question Saturday morning, Judge Robert D. Burns issued a charge to the jury urging them to continue deliberations until there is a decision.
Cochran's murder trial began Jan. 11 with the victim's mother taking the stand where she talked about the night her daughter disappeared. She said family members used her daughter's laptop and "Find My Phone" technology to find the location of the missing teenager. When she and her husband arrived at that location, they were met by police and instantly knew that something was not right.
Cochran has a history of arrests and convictions dating back 15 years for crimes that include assault, theft and burglary.
As recently as February 2014, he was arrested in Bowie County, Texas, after being accused of raping a teenage girl in a car. The district clerk's office confirms that the case went all the way to a jury trial in January 2015 in which Cochran was acquitted.