Tacoma — Nobody thinks Marcus Langford pulled the trigger last November when David Watson was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Tacoma convenience store while searching for his dog.
Surveillance videos clearly show Langford's teenage partner, James Stimson, was the one with the gun.
Yet on Friday, Langford, 17, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for first-degree murder.
Stimson, also 17, who admitted to the shooting, is serving a sentence of 20 years for second-degree murder.
Angered by the seeming unfairness, Langford's family members stormed out of the sentencing hearing in Pierce County Superior Court, cursing Judge John McCarthy as they left.
McCarthy was unmoved.
"You were not an innocent bystander," he told Langford. "You will be released before the age Mr. Watson was when he passed."
Watson was 45 when he died Nov. 18.
The difference in the prison terms given the two teens was the fact that Stimson pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduced charge of second-degree murder. Langford, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, levied on him because of his liability as an accomplice. His case went to trial, and he lost.
According to trial testimony, the two teens ran across Watson in the early-morning hours in the parking lot of a convenience store at South 56th and Lawrence streets after Watson went out searching for his dog.
Prosecutors said Stimson and Langford were trying to rob Watson when Stimson shot the man as he sat in his pickup. Langford told investigators Stimson demanded Watson give him "all you got," and then shot Watson after he grabbed for the gun.
Watson managed to drive a few blocks before wrecking. People who live nearby found him and called 911. Watson died at the hospital. His dog was found uninjured.
Langford, appearing at the hearing in chains, spoke on his own behalf, continuing to claim innocence.
"I'm just a kid and couldn't control his (Stimson's) actions," he said. "I was just an innocent bystander that was afraid to come forward. This is a big experience in my life, and I would like a second chance."
Watson's brother Jonathan was too emotionally distraught to read a statement he prepared for the hearing. He stood, wiping away tears as the statement was read for him. He told the judge his brother's death was a devastating blow to his entire family, his parents in particular.
Watson's parents did not attend the hearing, Watson said in the statement, "because they couldn't stand to be in the same room with the defendant."