Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Accused shooter loses 'stand your ground' argument involving botched drug deal

TAMPA — A big bag of pot. A drug dealer and his customer who each say the other guy tried a ripoff. A gun no one admits to owning. A whole bunch of stoned witnesses.

Those are the ingredients of a "stand your ground'' defense?

Florida's much-maligned "stand your ground" law was put to yet another test Friday when a teenage defendant facing trial for attempted murder asked a judge to throw out the case because he said he shot his drug dealer out of fear for his life.

The "stand your ground" law has been invoked more than 130 times since its passage in Florida in 2005, but in terms of colorful story lines, this was one for the books.

Both the drug dealer — who wears a scar extending from his forehead to the back of his right ear — and the dissatisfied customer argued it out for a half-day before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory Holder.

The drug dealer: Daniel Drake, then 21. He said he brought a half-pound of "hydro" marijuana to a yard on Mohrlake Drive in Brandon on Jan. 20, intending to make a sale.

The customer: Gerald Terrell Jones, then 17. He has been arrested 22 times since age 11. He said he had $500 in his pocket but wanted only $100 worth of Drake's weed.

After some considerable sampling of the wares by other people gathered in the yard, including Drake's sales partner, Michael Wilson, 21, Drake and Jones got into a car to make the transaction.

That's when, each says, the other tried to rob him.

Drake said Jones showed him a wad of cash, which Drake told him he admired, but then Jones displayed a gun and asked, "How do you like this?"

Jones said he wasn't carrying a gun. He said Drake pulled the gun, but he was able to wrestle it away from the dealer.

Then both got out of the car, and they scuffled some more. Drake's partner, Wilson, said he managed to get the gun away from Jones.

The next part is even harder to understand, except for the consumption of Drake's hydro. But for whatever reason, Wilson said he then gave the gun back to Jones.

Jones said he took off running with the gun. Drake said Jones grabbed the marijuana out of the car first.

They fought some more. Jones said he was losing. He felt himself slipping into unconsciousness.

"I was in fear for my life. I closed my eyes and shot."

He shot Drake in the face.

Jones' defense attorney, Ronald Kurpiers, said it was clearly a "stand your ground" case. Although the law doesn't protect people who are committing a crime, Kurpiers argued that the crime — the botched drug sale — was over before the shooting.

"He was running away. He was trying to leave."

Holder deliberated for 15 minutes before ruling that the "stand your ground" law didn't apply. Jones was committing a crime at the time, he said, and even if he hadn't been, the testimony didn't show he was in mortal danger. He said Jones would stand trial Monday for attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. Neither Jones nor Drake faces drug charges.

Holder also noted that the "stand your ground" law "has been misapplied throughout the state."

But not in this case.

He said the law is misapplied when it is used by police and prosecutors as a reason not to bring charges in a homicide. "It was not designed to be decided by them," he said.

Holder said the law was intended for a defendant's use in arguments before a judge.

"This," he told the attorneys, "is the way it's supposed to be done."

John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or [email protected]

Comments

Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Feb. 20

Tuesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 17, St. Petersburg Cath. 0BaseballGulf Coast HEAT 9, Canterbury 4Calvary Chr. 6, Lakeland Chr. 1
Updated: 5 hours ago
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after saying outspoken Parkland students are actors

Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after saying outspoken Parkland students are actors

It bubbled up from the darkest online corners then began to take off: conspiracy theories about Parkland students who’ve spent the past week on TV demanding action on the gun violence that killed 17 and reawakened a national debate.By late Tuesday af...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Q: My manager has recently started eating nuts at her desk, which is located right next to mine. Unfortunately, I have a serious nut allergy, so any contact with them could produce a life-threatening reaction. Even foods which contain tiny pieces of ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Cracking the peanut allergy; Clooneys inspire $2M celebrity donations to March For Our Lives; lawyer admits lying to Mueller team; more in U.S. news

Cracking the peanut allergy; Clooneys inspire $2M celebrity donations to March For Our Lives; lawyer admits lying to Mueller team; more in U.S. news

NationCracking the allergyThe first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. California’s Aimmune Therapeutics said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut powder helped children build tolerance in a major ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 23-year-old man wanted in connection with sexually assaulting a 71-year-old woman on Monday left behind the clue that deputies said led them right to him: A fingerprint on a Gatorade bottle.Deputies said that and other evidence ...
Updated: 9 hours ago