Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shooter in 2007 homicide says the victim attacked him first

DADE CITY — Within minutes of firing his gun at James Baisden, Sean Stewart was invoking Florida law.

"I'm going to stand my ground, dude. Jeb Bush said I could," Stewart told a detective as he was being driven to jail the night of the Dec. 2, 2007, shooting. The state's so-called "stand your ground" law, passed in 2005 under then-Gov. Bush, says people have no duty to retreat and can meet force with force when they're being threatened.

Stewart, on trial this week charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault, took the stand Wednesday and said he had been beaten unconscious by Baisden and others in a dispute over Stewart's guns. Stewart said he brought them into Baisden's Land O'Lakes house, where a group of people were watching football and drinking. Stewart was showing off the laser grips and other features of the weapons when the others at the house got nervous and put them away.

Later on, when Stewart went to retrieve them from a drawer, he said they were gone — stolen.

When he questioned Baisden about them, he said Baisden swung on him, then others jumped into the beating. He said he got knocked in the back of the head so hard his contact lenses came out, and he passed out on the floor.

When he woke up, he went out to his truck but didn't have his keys. He broke the passenger window and retrieved a .22-caliber pistol from inside the cab. When he saw Baisden and his roommate in the yard, he asked them again about his belongings, and they attacked him again, he said.

"I walked up over there and they started saying, 'We're going to whoop your f------ a-- again,' " Stewart told a detective in a recorded interview.

As Baisden charged at him, Stewart said he fired twice.

"What was your intention when you did that?" sheriff's Detective Mark Moe asked him.

"My intention was to not get my a-- kicked," Stewart said. "Dude, I reacted out of reflex and fear for my life."

During the interview, Stewart insisted he was a victim of battery and several times asked about Baisden, who had been his childhood friend.

Baisden, 34, died several days after the shooting from an infection that resulted from his gunshot wound, according to a medical examiner.

Prosecutors have put forth a different version of the night's events. They say the shooting was not about self-defense at all; that Stewart just wanted his guns back.

"Why did you put (the gun) in your pocket?" Assistant State Attorney Stacey Sumner asked Stewart.

"Because it's my right," he answered.

"Why didn't you leave?" she asked.

"Because I didn't have my keys," he said.

In the interview with Moe, Stewart acknowledged one thing he could have done differently:

"Why didn't you call us?" the detective asked him.

"I should have," Stewart said.

Jurors will hear closing arguments in the case this morning and then begin deliberating. Stewart, 37, faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted.

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

Shooter in 2007 homicide says the victim attacked him first 11/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  2. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

  3. White House communications director Dubke steps down


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke, White House communications director, has resigned in what could be the start of a series of changes to President Donald Trump's senior staff.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  4. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  5. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott