Gillis Penalty Phase: Gillis gets life in prison

Sean Vincent Gillis
Sean Vincent Gillis

By Jim Shannon - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The jury in the Sean Vincent Gillis trial has told the judge they cannot reach a verdict, effectively sentencing Gillis to life in prison for killing 43-year-old Donna Bennett Johnston in 2004.

The jury deliberated just under three hours, then told the bailiff they needed to talk to the judge. Right at about 5:50 Thursday evening, jurors told Judge Bonnie Jackson that they were "hopelessly deadlocked."

At noon, the prosecution was giving its closing argument to the jury, but the proceedings were disrupted when the closing by prosecutor Prem Burns was so powerful that the defendant broke down in tears and began wailing out loud. Burns was about 70 minutes into her close when Gillis, for the third time in this trial, began physically shaking and crying to the point that he was taken away to calm down.

Burns, in recounting the events of the trial, would bring reaction from Gillis from time-to-time, especially the testimony from Dr. Lewis on Wednesday. Dr. Lewis testified that Gillis thought he had worms in his head and ants coming out of his ears. Every time Burns would refer to that, Gillis would shake his head.