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Evans convicted of killing St. Paul cop; sentenced to life without parole

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St. Paul Police Sgt. Gerald Vick was killed last May outside a St. Paul bar. Harry Evans was convicted of first degree murder in the case Friday afternoon. (MPR file photo)
After one day of deliberations, a jury found Harry Evans guilty of first degree murder in the death of a St. Paul vice cop. Sgt. Gerald Vick, who was working undercover, was gunned down last May outside a bar on St. Paul's east side. The defense argued the state had the wrong guy. At sentencing, Evans maintained his innocence.

St. Paul, Minn. — Shortly after the jury walked into the courtroom, Judge Kathleen Gearin's law clerk read the verdict -- it found Harry Evans guilty of killing a peace officer, which carries an automatic life sentence.

The right side of the courtroom, where Vick's family and friends have sat throughout the trial, erupted in cheers, hugs, and sobbing. The judge banged her gavel to quiet the gallery. Harry Evans sat without emotion.

Afterwards, outside the courtroom, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington trembled slightly, his eyes deep with emotion, that the verdict was bittersweet.

"My sense is that we were alternately relieved, and then there was a kind of a hollow feeling that said, 'It's over.' It sort of brings closure to it, but it's hard to picture it being over," said Harrington. "While the trial was going on, Jerry was alive in our lives every day. It is difficult to think of that coming to an end."

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said Evans' DNA evidence on the gun was key.

"Certainly the DNA on the gun was hard to argue with. And the fact that two people, a citizen, and Sgt. Vick's partner, saw the shooting -- or at least key parts of it, and could identify which of the two in the alley had done it. Put that all together with the DNA and I think that was compelling," said Gaertner.

Later in the afternoon, right before the judge imposed the sentence, members of Vick's family, friends and fellow officers read their victim impact statements. Some wore a red rose and white carnation on their lapels. The red symbolized their love for Vick, and the white that he was now at peace.

His mother told the court that she never thought she could hurt so badly, and that it was all senseless. Vick's sister said that her father died just 29 days after Vick's murder, and that the father no doubt died of a broken heart. A fellow officer told the court that he wished Minnesota had a death penalty.

On the left side of the courtroom, Evans' family members squirmed, and under their breaths said Evans had not received a fair trial. Evans looked over to them occasionally. When he stood before Judge Gearin, he said he felt sorry for the Vick family but that he was an innocent man.

Evans maintained that the state prosecuted the wrong man -- that he did not kill Vick. Instead, he claimed the state's main witness and Evans' companion that night, Antonio Kelly, did.

The defense also argued that Kelly fingered Evans to save himself. Kelly was granted immunity, and faces no charges in connection with the shooting.

After the sentencing, Evans' younger brother Davion Evans was furious, and could not hold back his outrage towards the court and the justice system.

"It's a tragedy what happened to officer Vick, but they acting like he's the only one who has family. My brother is sitting up here taking care of three kids, two of which are not his. Now how many men in America does that? Not no murderer," said Davion Evans.

In the end, one family felt it had received justice. For the other, the verdict only reinforced what they believed is an unjust legal system.

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