TAMPA — Four years into his 30-year sentence for stabbing and killing a man outside an Ybor City nightclub, Chyvas Peoples is seeking another trial, this time hoping to invoke a "stand your ground" defense.
While the judge considers whether to grant a new trial, Peoples' wife gathered with about 20 friends and family members outside the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse on Tuesday morning to raise awareness of his case.
Peoples, who has long claimed self-defense, did not take the stand in his 2008 murder trial because his public defender urged against it. Now with a new attorney and a pending appeal, he hopes the stand your ground law will make him a free man.
His family said he was defending himself from a group of about eight men — including the man he killed, Kim Holmes — that attacked him and stole his jewelry in a parking lot outside the now-closed Empire Night Club. The public defender who had the case at the time advised Peoples not to take the stand because he is a convicted felon, having served time for possession of cocaine and carjacking.
Though the stand your ground law was in effect at the time, it was not raised as a defense.
But Daniel Castillo, Peoples' new attorney, is trying to change that this time around.
"Any reasonable person being attacked is going to defend themselves," Castillo said. "And now you're talking about a human being who's locked away in prison for something he didn't even get a chance to properly defend."
The goal of Tuesday's protest wasn't to influence the judge, Castillo said. "If it's not for gatherings like this, the general public doesn't become aware of these issues," he said.
Peoples' wife, Kristy, organized the rally, in which participants donned matching T-shirts and carried signs calling for "Justice for Chyvas" and "Defend Stand Your Ground."
"We're hoping the state will take an unbiased look into his case," Kristy Peoples said. "They're having a lot of trouble interpreting stand your ground now in 2012, and in 2006 and 2008 they definitely didn't know how to interpret it. We just want justice."
Peoples' friends and family described him as quiet and easygoing, an aspiring rapper.
"I've never even seen Chyvas and his brother fight, you understand," his mother, Deborrah Peoples, said. "If he could take it back, he would. But he was faced with circumstances where he was in fear for his life."