LONDON - A judge in Britain has sentenced two men to minimum prison terms of 14 years and 3 months and 15 years and 2 months for stabbing a black teenager to death almost two decades ago.
The murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence shocked the country and came to be seen as a festering racial injustice, attracting the attention of civil rights leaders in the U.S., such as Jesse Jackson and msnbc host Al Sharpton.
Two men have been convicted of killing a black teenager in a case that shook Britain's police and law courts. ITN's Simon Israel reports for Channel 4 news.
It was almost 19 years before anyone was convicted and three other suspects remain at large, to the frustration of prosecutors.
The investigation — which has seen multiple court appearances by all five suspects over the years — led to strong criticism of London's Metropolitan Police and resulted in an investigation that found the force was "institutionally racist" and had bungled evidence-gathering.
It also led to a change in Britain's double jeopardy rules, permitting a second prosecution if compelling new evidence emerges.
Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted Tuesday. On Wednesday, Dobson received the 15 years and 2 months sentence. Norris was jailed for 14 years and 3 months.
Judge Colman Treacy said the murder, by a gang of five people, was an evil crime motivated by racial hatred.
Crown Prosecution Service / Reuters
Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris, pictured in two undated photos released by Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, were found guilty of murdering black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
Because Dobson and Norris were teenagers at the time, their minimum sentences were shorter than if they had been adults.
The judge said Lawrence's death was a "murder that scarred the nation," according to BBC News.
"I'm sure that you knew one of your group was armed with a knife that night," the judge told Dobson and Norris. He said it was "a brief but coordinated attack, a racist taunt, a charge and a swallowing up of Stephen Lawrence."
"The evidence does not prove you had the knife, but the holder had it with your approval," he said. "It does not matter the knife was not in your hands. You -- Dobson -- repeatedly lied as part of group loyalty."
An inquiry into Lawrence's death found the investigation by London's Metropolitan Police had been hampered by its "institutionally racist" nature.
Matthew Ryder, a lawyer who represented the Lawrence family in a civil lawsuit against the police, told BBC News that the case was a "Rosa Parks moment" for the U.K.
Lawrence family via PA / AP, fil
An undated family handout photo of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
"It was a moment when you saw the victims of injustice fighting for justice and the system letting them down and I think for that reason it profoundly changed how we view race and racism within this society," Ryder added.
"On the face of it, it was a crude, violent form of racism, which every reasonable person would condemn, but what followed on from that, what's always been part of the Lawrence case, was the pernicious, systemic forms of racism which caused the investigation to fail," he said, according to the BBC.
Speaking after the two men were convicted, but before the sentencing hearing, Jackson said that black people in the U.K. were treated as "second class citizens -- free but not equal, not adequately protected by law," according to a report by the Daily Telegraph.
Jackson said local people in the community of Eltham, London, where the killing took place, had "incubated" the murderers.
"All these years many people knew who they were and they would end up being convicted on the strength of a drop of blood or a strand of hair," Jackson said, according to the Telegraph's report.
"It was much more obvious down through the years who was involved in this killing," he added.
The Associated Press and msnbc.com editor Ian Johnston contributed to this report.