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Victim lauded, defendant protests as life term is imposed

September 1, 2019

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — A neighbor sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in the shooting death of a Republican official outside Philadelphia continued to complain of harassment and assert self-defense while the victim was remembered as a kind and caring family man.

Clayton Carter III, 53, of West Goshen Township was convicted of first-degree murder in the August 2017 death of 51-year-old Brooks Jennings during an argument outside their homes.

Dozens of friends and relatives filled a West Chester courtroom last week to talk about the victim. Jennings’ wife, brother, brother-in-law and father-in-law tearfully described him as a devoted family man and one of the friendliest people in the neighborhood.

“I miss him so much,” said his wife, Jill Jennings. “We had plans for a long and happy future together.”

Carter read aloud a long essay maintaining his innocence and arguing he was a victim of persecution and harassment by people he said “decided to run me out of the neighborhood.” He said “I owe the Jennings family nothing, but they owe my family an apology.”

The victim was a GOP committeeman and the defendant’s yard had anti-Trump signs, but prosecutors said they didn’t think politics was a factor.

Jill Jennings said the defendant’s remarks showed the paranoia and disdain that marked his life in the neighborhood. “In his mind, everyone around him is wrong and there is no accountability for anything he does,” she said.

But she said her son could in the end find solace in the knowledge that his father “died protecting his wife, his son, his neighborhood, and his community.”

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