A USS Stark sailor was convicted of a double murder Friday despite the defense's contention that he was driven insane by the May 1987 Iraqi missile attack that killed 37 of his shipmates.
Walter Thomas Taylor, 24, was a lookout on the Stark when an Iraqi warplane fired two Exocet missiles into the ship as it patrolled the Persian Gulf.The defense claimed Taylor was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome when he took a hammer and beat an acquaintance, 21-year-old Paula Smits, and her 3-year-old daughter, Amanda, to death in August 1987.
But prosecutors said Taylor acted deliberately to cover up his rape of Smits, whose sailor husband was at sea at the time.
The jury deliberated for just over 6 1/2 hours Thursday and Friday before returning two first-degree murder verdicts.
"We can go on now. Justice has been done," one of Smits' three sisters was heard to say after the verdicts were read.
Jurors will return Saturday to hear testimony and recommend whether the judge should sentence Taylor to Florida's electric chair or life in prison.
In 1986, Florida executed a former Marine and purple-heart recipient, David Funchess, who claimed he suffered from post-traumatic syndrome as a result of his experiences in Vietnam.
Taylor maintained a stoic expression when the verdict was announced. But his mother and sister from Roanoke, Va., cried.