A jury took less than three hours on Tuesday to find Quentin Truehill guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of a Florida State University graduate student.

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A jury took less than three hours on Tuesday to find Quentin Truehill guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of a Florida State University graduate student.

Truehill, a 26-year-old man from Louisiana, was arrested on April 12, 2010, in Miami along with two other men about two weeks before Vincent Binder's body was found in a St. Johns County field.

Truehill and co-defendants Peter Marcus Hughes, 26, and Kentrell Johnson, 43, are all charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in Binder's death. Truehill pleaded not guilty.

The men escaped from a Louisiana prison, and investigators believe they stole a pickup truck from a nearby home and robbed people, including Binder, on their way to Miami.

Truehill was mostly emotionless during the trial. After the jury left the room for deliberations, Truehill smiled and shook an attorney's hand.

The jury spent most of last week hearing the state's evidence and witnesses, but their work is not over. Judge Raul Zambrano ordered the jury to return on March 3 to begin the penalty phase.

Penalty phase

The state is seeking the death penalty for all of the defendants. Because Truehill was found guilty, the jury must decide whether to recommend a sentence of life in prison or death.

During the penalty phase, prosecutors and defense attorneys can present evidence and arguments to the jury for or against a death sentence. The jury will consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances to make its recommendation. A majority vote is needed to recommend the death penalty, and the judge makes the final decision.

Zambrano told jurors the next phase of the case could take about a week.

Closing arguments

A photo of Vincent Binder at a store in Tallahassee flashed up on a projector screen in the courtroom as the state began its closing argument.

"Within a couple of hours he would be on the most terrifying ride of his life," said prosecutor Mark Johnson.

Prosecutors said evidence shows Binder, Johnson and Hughes worked together in their escape from prison and other crimes, including robberies on the way to Miami, and they believed evidence showed they worked together to kidnap and kill Binder.

Investigators used video recordings of Truehill and Johnson at locations along the way, transactions made on Binder's debit card and testimony from witnesses to track the moves of the defendants and to link them to the killing.

During the trial, four people testified that the men robbed them, and a few of them said Truehill held a knife during the attacks.

One woman said her skull was fractured and some of her fingers were cut off in an attack in Pensacola. Two incidents happened in Tallahassee on the same night that Binder was last seen.

Binder was studying for a master's degree in media and communications. He was originally from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The defense argued the state did not prove Truehill was at the field when Binder died, or that Binder even died in the field. Defense attorney Raymond Warren had said earlier that much of the state's case was based on inferences.

Prosecutors said the state had proven that Truehill willingly participated in the kidnapping and slaying of Binder.

They also proved that Binder struggled to survive as he was killed in a field near State Road 16 and Interstate 95, Johnson said.

Among the cuts and hack marks on his body, Binder had defensive wounds, and some of his fingers were severed. "When the end came for Vince, he fought for his life. Now, in this phase of the trial, the evidence fights for justice in this case," Johnson said.

"Today is the day and now is the time for justice to come for Quentin Truehill."

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