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Shawn Lawrence sentenced to 75 years to life for fatal ambush in North Amityville

Shawn Lawrence appears at Suffolk County Court in

Shawn Lawrence appears at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Monday, June 22, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

After blaming his murder conviction on what he called an ineffective attorney, corrupt police and prosecutors and an unfair judge, a North Amityville man was sentenced Thursday to 75 years to life in prison.

Shawn Lawrence, 42, had a lot to say about his conviction for second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder -- so much that he continually interrupted state Supreme Court Justice William Condon. A jury found Lawrence guilty last month of taking part in an ambush shooting that left three North Amityville men -- James Terry, 44, dead; David Hodges with severe brain damage; and Ralph Council Jr., 49 -- with permanent back and leg injuries.

Lawrence continued to insist he had nothing to do with it.

"I give my condolences to the family [of Terry], even though I did not commit this crime," Lawrence said.

Lawrence said his lawyer, Joseph Hanshe of Sayville, was ineffective and made tactical blunders. In a ruling denying a motion to throw out the verdict, Condon said an attorney can't be assumed to be ineffective just because he doesn't win the case.

Both during the trial and Thursday, Lawrence accused Suffolk homicide detectives of fabricating witness statements against him. He also said prosecutors hid evidence that could have helped him at trial, such as the fact that a teenager was arrested with a gun used in the shooting a few months later. Prosecutors said they turned that information over long ago directly to Lawrence.

He accused the judge of being racist when he helped prosecutors keep favorable evidence out of the trial and limited the defense's ability to call witnesses. Condon said Lawrence's trial was fair and his conviction wasn't because he's black. The victims were black, too.

"Karma will come back on you and your family," he told the judge -- the same thing he told Det. Thomas Walsh after his arrest three years ago.

Condon seemed unconcerned about that. He told Lawrence his complaints about the case "will be a very interesting issue on appeal."

"On some level, I feel sorry for you," Condon said. "I feel bad for you. You did not get a fair shake growing up."

But Condon agreed with Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock that Lawrence is incapable of living in society and should be "locked in a cage for life."

Kurtzrock said Lawrence has been breaking laws since he was 10 years old, with a record that includes convictions for at least one other shooting, robberies, drugs and sex crimes. That all culminated in the events of Jan. 12, 2010, when Allen McGhee recruited Lawrence and two others to avenge a slight by Hodges, Kurtzrock said.

McGhee had taken food from Hodges, not knowing it included shrimp. McGhee is allergic to seafood and got sick. The four men shot at a minivan in an apartment complex parking lot, killing Terry.

McGhee pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving 12 years in prison. Kurtzrock said Lawrence was an "eager and willing participant."

Besides Terry, Kurtzrock said Council is permanently injured. "David Hodges is trapped inside his own head, unable to communicate with the outside world," he said. "The defendant has left behind a trail of blood and tears."

Angela Wilson of West Babylon, Terry's partner and the mother of his three children, verified that.

"You robbed me of my backbone," she said. "Despite it all, I have to forgive you. I wanted to be so mad and ugly with my words. But I will pray for you."

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