Times Staff Writer
CLEARWATER — A Clearwater man who shot his cousin after a dispute over a necklace has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and will spend 25 years in prison.
Terry Tyrone Davis argued earlier this year that he acted in self-defense in 2010 when he shot Nathaniel Gooden, 24, in a front yard on Tangerine Street.
But Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip J. Federico denied Davis' motion in October to have the case dropped.
That meant Davis was set to go on trial next week on a charge of first-degree murder. A conviction would have given him a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But by pleading guilty on Wednesday to the reduced charge of second-degree murder, he received the 25-year-prison sentence.
Although there was no trial, Davis did testify in his own defense in a motion based on Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives people the right not to retreat in the face of danger, and to answer force with force.
Davis, who is 20 now and was 18 at the time of the shooting, explained what happened this way:
He said he and his cousin used to live together at Davis' mother's house on Tangerine Street. Once, his mother gave him a necklace and, he claimed, he later discovered that Gooden sold it. But his mother told him to let the matter go, and so he did.
Then Gooden moved to North Carolina and eventually asked Davis for help selling a different necklace. Davis testified that he did sell Gooden's necklace for $1,000 but, remembering the earlier incident, decided to pocket the cash. He said he figured Gooden wouldn't come back down from North Carolina over the matter.
He was wrong about that.
In August 2010, he said, Gooden did come down from North Carolina and confronted Davis in person, and through a phone call to Davis' mother.
Eventually, Gooden came to Davis' mother's house. Davis, after overhearing Gooden's phone call, retrieved a gun. Gooden came with a crowd of people, and he was "mumbling under his breath," Davis said.
"I aimed my firearm at him," Davis said.
He says Gooden told him he didn't have the guts to shoot, but Davis squeezed the trigger.
"The first time I shot him, he was still continuing to come at me, like the first shot didn't faze him, so I shot him two more times," Davis testified.
Afterward, "I was scared, shocked and just like in disbelief."
The crowd scattered. Davis dropped his gun next to his cousin and waited for police to come, telling them it was self-defense.
One of Davis' attorneys, James Mancuso, said that under the "stand your ground" law, a person does not have to retreat from someone if he "reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself."
Davis had every reason to believe he was "about to be the victim of death or great bodily harm," especially because Gooden had a previous history of violence, he said.
But Judge Federico noted that Davis had grabbed a gun before Gooden came over, and said, "I'm not aware that there's such a thing as premeditated self-defense."
Federico said that when Gooden went over to the house where Davis lived, "there's no doubt he was going over there to kick his a--." But, he added, "that does not allow you to kill a guy."
Federico added that, "even in this cowboy-up mentality that the Florida Legislature has, I don't think that (is) what the law of self-defense is in this state."
During the October hearing, Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo argued that it was a case of premeditated murder, and said it "is certainly telling" that Davis shot Gooden three times.