It took a Houston jury five-and-a-half days to decide on a punishment for a man found guilty of the deadliest human smuggling attempt in the country. The jury sentenced 35-year-old Tyrone Williams to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury also had the options of handing down a death sentence or letting the judge determine a prison sentence.

Williams, an immigrant from Jamaica, put more than 70 illegal aliens from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic in his tractor-trailer truck in May 2003 to take them from South Texas to Houston. Nineteen people died in the smuggling attempt. According to reports, the illegal aliens “kicked walls, clawed at insulation, broke out taillights and screamed for help.”

Williams left the truck at a truck stop in Victoria, Texas, which is located about 100 miles south of Houston.

Williams’ attorneys said he didn’t intend for the illegal aliens to die, and didn’t know the truck was too hot until it was too late. They blamed the deaths on other members of the smuggling ring to which Williams belonged. Prosecutors, however, said Williams deserved the death penalty because he intentionally caused the deaths and didn’t take any measures to save their lives, such as turning on the air conditioning. Some survivors said they thought the air conditioning was on.

Williams was one of 14 people charged in the case. He was convicted last month of all 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring and transporting. In 2005, he was convicted on 38 counts but did not receive a death sentence because the jury couldn’t agree on his role in the smuggling. The jury was deadlocked on 20 counts. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later rejected the verdict because the jury couldn’t say specifically what role Williams played.

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