Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fatal shooting after Chasco Fiesta was self-defense, lawyer tells jurors

Defense attorney Keith Hammond, left, sits beside client Max Wesley Horn on Monday during questioning of potential jurors.


Defense attorney Keith Hammond, left, sits beside client Max Wesley Horn on Monday during questioning of potential jurors.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Max Wesley Horn shot Joseph Martell during the after hours of the 2008 Chasco Fiesta. That he fired his pistol six times, leaving Martell dead in the street, is not in dispute.

As Horn's trial got under way Monday, jurors began the process of determining whether the shooting was second-degree murder, as prosecutors say, or legal self-defense, as Horn claims.

Horn and Martell, who didn't know each other, each attended the popular Chasco parade on March 29, 2008, with friends. Martell, 34, crossed paths with Horn's sister-in-law and made a rude remark to her, Assistant State Attorney Jim Goodnow told jurors Monday. Later that night, the groups met again in the street outside a bar where big crowds were drinking and partying.

Kim Dennison, Horn's sister-in-law, testified that she recognized Martell from earlier in the day. She and her husband began fighting with him — the men bumped chests, Kim slapped Martell and he called her a crude name, she testified.

Horn stepped into the argument, and friends on both sides tried to break it up.

Horn, who has a heart condition, told Martell, who was 6-feet-6 and 328 pounds, that he couldn't fight but was armed. Horn lifted his shirt to reveal a pistol in a waistband holster, his attorney Peter Brick told jurors.

Friends dragged Martell away from the fight, but he went back outside moments later.

In sworn statements, some witnesses said Martell charged Horn, intent on fighting. Horn claims Martell punched him. Other witnesses say Martell was turning away, disengaging, when Horn pulled out the gun and fired it six times until it jammed.

"He was a voluntary participant in that argument," Goodnow told the jury. "The shooting was not justified and it was not self-defense."

Brick countered that Horn had no choice but to use his gun.

"There was no opportunity to flee," Brick told the jury. "He was under direct attack. He had no other means of defense than the weapon."

People on both sides of the gun debate are watching the case. It is a test of Florida's relatively new "stand your ground" law, which says people have no duty to retreat and have a right to use force when they feel threatened.

Among those in the randomly selected jury pool Monday was Bill Bunting, Pasco's Republican Party committeeman, an NRA member, longtime Second Amendment activist and firearms instructor. He said his students have included state Rep. Will Weatherford and U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite.

Asked if he has any personal philosophies about self-defense, Bunting replied: "If somebody came up and pulled a gun on me and I had a legal right to shoot them, yes, I'd shoot them."

He was not chosen for the jury.

The trial is expected to last two or three days. Brick said Horn will testify.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at or (727) 869-6245.

Fatal shooting after Chasco Fiesta was self-defense, lawyer tells jurors 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. As Trump's overseas trip ends, crisis grows at home (w/video)


    President Donald Trump headed home Saturday to confront a growing political and legal threat, as his top aides tried to contain the fallout from reports that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a focus of investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the president's campaign and transition teams.

    President Donald Trump waves as he exits Marine One on Saturday at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy. After a nine-day trip overseas, the president is returning to Washington.
  2. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski


    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  3. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  4. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  5. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.