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Man found guilty of murder in car dealership slaying
Taylor sentenced to life in prison for 2012 shooting
Defendant Mark Antonio Taylor II testifies during his May 2014 murder trial.

For taking the life of Charles Weaver, a judge sentenced Mark Antonio Taylor II on Wednesday afternoon to spend the rest of his life in a Georgia prison.

It took a jury a little more than an hour to convict Taylor of malice murder in the death of the 42-year-old Weaver.

“There was no reason for Mr. Taylor to follow him in the building,” Judge Bonnie Oliver said in the sentencing hearing shortly after the verdict. “No reason to follow him. Mr. Weaver was evading him and going inside like he was told. He laid down the knife. The only reason for following him in there was to eliminate anybody that could identify him.”

“If I could come up with another reason, I wouldn’t sentence you like this, Mr. Taylor. But I couldn’t come up with another reason.”

Taylor fired two shots from his Hi-Point .45-caliber pistol at Weaver, a Carriage Automotive employee, early on Dec. 28, 2012. Medical examiners said the second shot entered Weaver’s chest and killed him in a matter of minutes.

Taylor was found guilty on all of the charges, which in addition to malice murder were three counts of felony murder, armed robbery, theft by taking and possession of a weapon in the commission of a felony. The prosecution said one of the reasons it did not pursue the death penalty was the then-21-year-old’s relatively young age at the time of the incident.

Taylor claimed self-defense at the trial, although his attorney pivoted slightly in closing arguments by urging jurors to convict on a lesser-included charge of voluntary manslaughter. Self-defense is a justification for deadly force in any type of homicide, while voluntary manslaughter speaks to the perpetrator’s mindset and a lack of malice.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance said that based on how Taylor had run into Weaver — the aftermath of an attempted theft of a running work truck outside Carriage Mitsubishi parts warehouse — self-defense was both irrelevant and inconsistent with what she said was an execution-style killing. Georgia code does not allow a claim of self-defense in the commission of a felony.

“This case is not about self-defense, it’s about self-preservation. Because that’s what Mark Taylor has shown. He’s shown no remorse,” Vance said. “He absolutely executed Charles Weaver in that parts room, and there’s no other word in the English language that speaks to that when you shoot at someone who is running away.”

“Do not let a car thief shoot his victim and walk away.”

Taylor was arrested in Atlanta after taking off in the 2011 red Nissan Frontier. He said he left when he saw Weaver bleeding from the second shot.

Taylor’s attorney, Morris Fair Jr., said the prosecution was ignoring in its narrative that Weaver had pulled a knife on Taylor, although Weaver was unarmed when shot.

“This is not a malicious, vicious, cold murder. ... This is where it becomes voluntary manslaughter,” he said.

Taylor, who was the lone witness in his defense, testified that after asking Weaver to drop the knife, he walked him inside the warehouse so he wouldn’t see which direction he was heading.

“I just felt bad about taking the truck once I (had) seen him,” he said of his decision to drive back toward Weaver when he first saw him.

“Was your intent to kill any witnesses?” Fair asked.

“No, it was not,” Taylor said.

Oliver said that as the evidence unfolded, her only conclusion in a “senseless, useless” killing was fear of law enforcement.

“The only thing I can come up with is that Mr. Taylor did not want to have to deal with law enforcement. That’s the only thing that was going to happen,” she said. “Law enforcement was going to come and he was going to be accused of trying to take a car.”

Taylor spoke again briefly in court, asking for the lesser of sentencing options available for a murder conviction, life with the possibility of parole. He turned to Weaver’s family several times to address them directly.

“I’m very sorry. That’s with my deepest sincerity ... I do express my apologies,” he said, adding he empathized with someone who had been in his victim’s position.

“I’ve lost more than one family member to gunpoint. I’ve been armed robbed, at gunpoint,” he said.

Vance read victim impact statements from Weaver’s family at sentencing.

Wrote his father Bill Weaver, “I have lost a child, friend and golf partner. His beautiful songs and smiles will never shine again. ... I can’t imagine what he was feeling, the fear and terror, as his life ended, all for a $50 cab ride I would have gladly paid.”

Oliver said Weaver’s young age made the decision among her hardest as a judge. But she noted that while Taylor could find a purpose even within a Georgia prison, Weaver would never feel the love of a community again.

“You’re living and breathing. You’re going to be able to communicate with your family on the telephone, in person and by written letter,” she said. “ You’re going to be able to continue to feel love for your sons and your mother and sister, and feel love returned to you from them.

“Mr. Weaver can’t feel anything. He can’t communicate with his son, with his family. He can’t do anything. He can’t make something of his life.”