Jose L. Mejia will spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally shooting an innocent man in the back after stealing his jewelry, cell phone and the sneakers off his feet.
Mejia, 20, was sentenced Thursday by Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio, after a jury previously convicted him of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Darryl L. Jones last June.
"You committed a vicious and cowardly act," DiTullio told Mejia.
As soon as DiTullio read the sentence of life in prison without parole, Mejia's friends and family began crying and screaming and had to be dragged out of the courtroom by the 15 sheriff's deputies standing guard.
Jones, 22, of Moselle Street, had stepped off a bus on the West Side during the early morning hours of June 22, 2006, when he was robbed by Mejia and Luis R. Hernandez.
Mejia is accused of shooting Jones in the back as the victim tried to run away.
Hernandez, now 17, was sentenced in May to 20 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter.
"My baby is gone," Jones' mother, Gwendolyn Farmer, told DiTullio at the sentencing. "You have no idea how sick it makes me . . . to be in the same room with the person who took him."
"My son will never walk out of his grave," Farmer said, as she sobbed, "and [Mejia] should never walk out of jail either."
During his April trial, Mejia claimed homicide detectives tricked him into signing a murder confession after hours of interrogation.
"Even after a jury trial, he continues to blame everyone but himself," said homicide prosecutor James F. Bargnesi, "the district attorney's office, his attorney, his co-defendant who testified against him, as well as this court."
DiTullio asked Mejia if he had anything to say to the victim's mother.
"No matter what I say, it will never bring her son back," Mejia said. "I still maintain my innocence."