Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge to decide if fatal New Port Richey shooting is justified

NEW PORT RICHEY — You feel threatened.

You feel threatened by a man you've argued with and a man you perceive to be menacing.

You feel threatened by a man who's big, 6 feet 6 and 328 pounds, and drunk, too, almost three times the level at which the state says you're too drunk to drive, and now he's coming toward you and maybe he punches you in the face.

So you shoot him.

You shoot him dead.

Is that murder or is it self defense?

The case of Max Wesley Horn was eye-catching from the start because of the circumstances of the crime. Last March, Horn, 47, shot Joe Martell, 34, outside Hot Shotz bar in downtown New Port Richey at the Chasco Fiesta street festival. He shot him six times with a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun equipped with a laser sight. He kept firing until the gun jammed.

As the Horn case has come through the courts, though, it's gotten more than just eye-catching.

There was a hearing Thursday in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Michael F. Andrews. It was a defense motion for dismissal. Horn's attorneys say this was self defense and that he should no longer be prosecuted for second-degree murder.

The argument is based on the relatively new and controversial state law that went into effect in 2005 and is sometimes called the "stand your ground" law. If you're attacked, the law says, you can "meet force with force, including deadly force."

Thursday's hearing lasted about five hours. The defense called eight witnesses. The state called seven. Now it's up to Andrews to make a decision. That could come in days, or it could come in weeks, although there's no specific timetable.

On March 29, 2008, Martell said some nasty things to Horn's sister-in-law, which led to an argument later in the evening, which led quickly to a second argument. That argument ended with gunfire.

One of the bullets perforated Martell's left lung. Another lodged in his spine.

Horn started to walk away and was tackled by onlookers.

He told the first police officer on the scene that Martell had been "asking for it."

At this point, the attorneys on both sides, the many witnesses — they all agree on only a few things. There was some pushing, some shoving, some arguing, and Horn shot Martell, and Martell died. And that's about it.

It was dark.

It was crowded.

Many of the witnesses had been drinking. Some of them had been drinking a lot.

Some witnesses testified Thursday that Martell punched Horn in the face just before the shots. Others saw no such thing.

Some said they were 10 feet apart when Horn shot his gun. Others say they were 4 feet apart. One witness said they were about a foot and a half apart.

Some heard Horn warn him that he had a gun and to stop messing with him. Others did not.

Horn, who was 6 feet and 270 pounds on the day this happened but now appears much lighter, took the stand Thursday, too. He was well-spoken and mild-mannered.

He has a weak heart. His heart doctor testified to that. He takes 15 pills a day.

Horn testified that Martell told him he was going to crush his skull and called him things like sissy, only not that nice. He testified that he told Martell that he couldn't fight him but that he'd shoot him if he didn't stop.

"I was very afraid," Horn said. "I didn't have any choice.

"You shoot to stop the threat," he added. "I was shooting to stop the threat."

Self defense or murder?

"I don't think it's a clear case of self defense," prosecutor Neil O'Brien told the judge.

"This could go either way," defense attorney Keith Hammond said.

Then Andrews, the judge, asked both of them: "Doesn't the defendant have at least a very good argument that he was dealing with someone that was hellbent on fighting?"

Michael Kruse can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6244.

Judge to decide if fatal New Port Richey shooting is justified 01/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 2:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.