With tears in her eyes, the mother of murdered 17-year-old Curtisha Morning said her family can now finally move on.
“Justice was served,” Viola Morning said after her daughter’s killer and former classmate, Kalila Taylor, was found guilty in a retrial in county criminal court Monday. “A murderer stayed behind bars.”
Kalila Taylor, a 35-year-old former Riverhead High School student, stabbed Ms. Morning — the school’s homecoming queen — more than 90 times in a jealous rage over the attention of Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend in February 1996.
Ms. Morning’s body was found a month later in woods near the school.
The jury took just over three hours Monday to unanimously find Ms. Taylor guilty of second-degree murder in the retrial, which began June 11.
Ms. Taylor was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, but the state Court of Appeals threw out the conviction after determining the then presiding judge incorrectly instructed the jury to treat the prosecution’s DNA evidence as direct evidence instead of circumstantial evidence.
“I’m very pleased that the jury was able to deliver a verdict with such confidence so quickly,” said Suffolk County assistant district attorney Janet Albertson, “There’s a tremendous sense of relief for the [Morning] family.”
Ms. Taylor, who wore a light brown shirt and cornrows in her hair, dabbed at her eyes after the verdict was read before she was handcuffed and escorted to jail to be held for sentencing.
Someone shouted, “It was wrong!” from outside the courtroom after the verdict was read.
Ms. Morning’s friends and family members, who sat silently as the verdict was read, said after the trial that the family could now begin to heal.
“It’s over,” said Wendy Alexander, a family friend, “Now the family can move on.”
The convict will be sentenced on August 22. She faces a prison sentence of 25 years to life in prison.