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Convicted killer’s life spared by jury

Updated October 22, 2021 - 6:09 pm

A jury on Friday spared the life of a man convicted of murder in a 2016 shooting in Las Vegas.

Cortrayer Zone, 43, and 33-year-old Michael Rusk were found guilty last week of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit murder for the killing of 34-year-old Clarence McQuarters. Zone, the only defendant facing the death penalty, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I’m very pleased the jury spared his life,” Christopher Oram, one of Zone’s attorneys, said Friday afternoon. “I think it was the right decision.”

The jury could not decide on a sentence for Rusk, so defense attorney Clark Patrick asked District Judge Jacqueline Bluth to sentence the 33-year-old at a later date. Bluth ordered him back in court for sentencing on Dec. 7.

In addition to the murder charges, Rusk was convicted of home invasion and robbery stemming from crimes after the shooting, while Rusk was running from police.

On June 10, 2016, Rusk drove Zone to confront McQuarters, prosecutors have said, because Zone thought his girlfriend was cheating on him with the other man.

The friends waited at McQuarters’ apartment complex for more than an hour before shooting him in the parking lot.

In closing arguments Thursday, defense attorneys said Zone suffered severe abuse from his family starting when he 6. The trauma resulted in severe mental illness and “borderline intellectual functioning,” attorney Betsy Allen said.

“I am not minimizing what he did,” Allen said. “But I am here telling you that when you hear about someone’s childhood and it is this, what you have heard in the last few days, what do you think is going to happen?”

On Thursday, Oram questioned why Zone, who is Black, was facing the death penalty when Rusk was not, even though they were convicted of the same murder. Oram on Friday said he did not believe the prosecutors were discriminatory.

“I don’t believe they’re doing anything other than trying to do justice for our community,” he said.

Prosecutors argued that Zone, a documented gang member, was responsible for a “reign of terror” that started in 1995 and included multiple shootings and domestic violence cases.

In 2008, he pointed a gun at an 11-year-old girl’s head during a robbery. Five years later, he was caught in a different love triangle when he became jealous with his girlfriend and beat another man with a metal pipe, Chief Deputy District Attorney John Giordani said.

Later that year, he believed the same girlfriend was cheating on him with another man, whom Zone shot and injured, Giordani said. Two months after he was released from prison for that shooting, Zone would go on to shoot and kill McQuarters.

“Nothing — no bad childhood, no level of violence in the childhood — can outweigh the level of violence that (Zone) has inflicted upon our community for the last couple of decades,” Giordani said Thursday.

Franklin Griffin, McQuarters’ brother, said his family was happy with the verdict and sentence from the jury. Griffin said he felt “mixed emotions” about the death penalty throughout the trial but wanted justice to be served.

“He won’t be doing any more harm to any other victims and any other people’s families,” Griffin said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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