updated 1/5/2007 12:33:59 PM ET 2007-01-05T17:33:59

Three teenagers charged with beating a homeless man to death with a baseball bat as he slept on a park bench won’t face the death penalty if convicted, prosecutors said Friday.

William Ammons and Brian Hooks, both 19, would have been eligible for the ultimate penalty, but the third defendant was only 17 at the time, so prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty against any of them.

“As a matter of proportion, it would have been improper for the death penalty to be sought,” said Brian Cavanagh, the assistant state attorney prosecuting the case.

The teens could now face up to life in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder in the Jan. 12, 2005, killing of Norris Gaynor, 45.

Ammons, Hooks and Thomas Daugherty also are charged with attempted murder in two other beatings of homeless men in Fort Lauderdale. One was caught on a surveillance camera and was broadcast around the world, helping detectives crack the case.

All three teens have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail. No trial date has been set.

Hooks’ and Ammons’ lawyers said the prosecutors’ decision not to seek the death penalty was proper.

“It takes courage. They didn’t just do something that would have been politically expedient,” said attorney Sam Halpern, who represents Ammons. “He’s been living under the shadow of a possible death sentence for about a year.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18 cannot face execution.

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