For members of a recently impaneled jury at the city courthouse, it was a difficult decision: How many years to sentence Tobias Carrington, 20, for second-degree murder, malicious wounding and related firearm charges? Guided by mandatory minimums and Virginia sentencing guidelines, the citizen jurists were given a range within to choose that had a low end of 18 years and a maximum penalty of 68 years.
Noting Carrington’s lack of previous criminal trouble and severe medical handicaps the young man will face for the remainder of his days, defense attorney David Kiyonaga pleaded with jurors to lean toward the minimum range. Even Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel admitted to jurors that he felt they should avoid the maximum end of the punishment guidelines, adding that it might seem like a strange thing to hear from a prosecutor. After deliberating for about two hours, the jury recommended a sentence of 21 years — just three years above the minimum allowable punishment.
As the jury’s recommendation now winds its way through the legal process, heading toward a judge’s consideration in August, the life will never be the same for the Carrington family. The three-day trial culminated in dramatic testimony from Carrington’s grandfather, who survived being shot by his own grandson then fingering him as the culprit in murdering a caretaking friend during a triple shooting last year. After the jury rendered a guilty verdict, Tobias Carrington took the stand.
"Life’s going to be hard up in here," said Carrington after hobbling toward the witness stand. "There’s not much I can do about it."
DURING A TENSE Thursday morning sentencing hearing, the defendant’s mother tearfully defended her 20-year-old son. A sheriff’s deputy brought Carrington a box of tissues as he dabbed the side of his face from behind the defense table while listening to the sound of his mother’s trembling voice. She described her son as a good kid, one who stayed out of trouble and was preparing to return to school for a graduation-equivalency diploma. But she said he fell into the wrong crowd and started carrying a gun after being shot in 2005.
"I wanted the best for Tobias," said Aritha Carrington, glancing toward the defendant.
The self-inflicted gunshot wound to her son’s head was only one of his physical handicaps, she said. Even before the April 2, 2006 triple shooting, Tobias Carrington had several medical ailments including heart problems, a steel plate in his leg, a debilitating neck injury and nerve damage. Now that he has been found guilty of second-degree murder, she wondered on the stand, what good would incarcerating him do?
"Who’s he going to hurt? He can’t go anywhere," she said. "I don’t think a penitentiary would be the right place for him."
THE CARRINGTON FAMILY has been ripped apart by the trial’s proceedings, which forced a grandfather to identify his grandson son as a killer in a court of law. That was only one part of a three-day trial that unraveled that fateful day in 2006 when Tobias Carrington entered his grandfather’s room with a loaded gun and took aim at two men before turning the gun on himself. One died, but the other survived to tell the story about what happened in that fifth-floor apartment in Old Towne West.
"What are you doing with that gun in your hand?" Henry Carrington said, according to his testimony last week. "Come on. Don’t do this."
Tobias Carrington, 19 years old at the time, opened fire in the bedroom of Apartment 516. The first bullet struck Lee Timmons, 50, who was helping Henry Carrington recover from hip surgery by doing laundry and buying groceries. Timmons was dead by the time paramedics and detectives arrived and started piecing together what had happened. Henry Carrington had been shot in the arm, then slumped over on the side of his bed to call 911. Tobias Carrington turned the gun on himself in a failed attempt at suicide — surviving to face trial in Circuit Court. When his attorney asked him what he would like to do with his life, Tobias Carrington
"There’s not much I can do now," he said. "I just want to go home and be right."