Articles Posted in Self Defense

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Darth Vader of Death Star, Space, 45 years old, was indicted last week in the Middle District of Florida for allegedly violating the RICO act, Conspiracy, Committing Acts of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries, Murder, loitering and prowling, and finally, wearing a mask on a public way. Mr. Vader has long been thought to be a vital cog in the “Dark Side” organization but has to date avoided capture or criminal charge, instead going unscathed while various ranking storm trooper underlings faced a variety of criminal charges including trespass and drunk and disorderly conduct. While the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office have remained tight-lipped with respect to the evidence against Vader, many believe this could be it for the Dark Lord.

While it may seem to many a slam-dunk to earn a conviction against Mr. Vader, Mr. Vader’s legal counsel doesn’t think so. When asked, Mr. Vader’s lead defense counsel, Tampa criminal attorney Jason Mayberry indicated that while it may indeed be more difficult to defend against the loitering and prowling charge, it may prove to be an uphill battle in proving the terrorism charge, given a lack of eyewitnesses to Mr. Vader himself ordering or committing any act of terrorism under 18 USC 2332b. With respect to a potential conspiracy charge under 18 USC 371, Mayberry points out that there are no known remaining witnesses to attest that there was agreement to achieve an unlawful objective, that Mr. Vader knowingly and voluntarily participated in the conspiracy, and that Mr. Vader committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. United States v. Brenson, 104 F.3d 1267 (11th Cir. 1997); United States v. Suba, 132 F.3d 662 (11th Cir. 1998); United States v. Hansen, 262 F3d 1217 (11th Cir. 2001).

As to a murder charge for the death of Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, Mayberry cites a claim for self-defense within one’s home. According to Mayberry, “it appears clear that Mr. Kenobi entered Mr. Vader’s home with the intent to use deadly force against him. It was Mr. Kenobi who was committing the crime of burglary against Mr. Vader, who was simply using deadly force to defend himself and his friends against the deadly force planned against him by Mr. Kenobi and his lightsaber. Furthermore, there appears to be an argument for a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in the middle district.” To Mayberry’s point, there are no known treaties between the United States and the Death Star, nor does there appear to be any enabling statutes, akin to the United States Coast Guard patrolling international waters for narcotics, in effect. A quick review of past police reports find that Obi-Wan Kenobi does have a history of brutally attacking Darth Vader leading to severe injury.

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Ah, the wonderful world of divorce and the precipitating domestic violence allegations that often accompany it. While not an uncommon crime, allegations occurring 6,834 times in Pinellas County last year and 6,387 times in Hillsborough County according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Report statistics, what is rare is to have an incident on video. This is just such an example for Pinellas County resident Corinne Novak who stands accused of domestic battery against her unnamed husband for allegedly grabbing his crotch during a time-sharing exchange of their two children. On video, a hand alleged to be Ms. Novak’s is seen blasting into view and appearing to intrude in her unnamed husband’s genital region, against his will as indicated by his reaction, also caught on video. While this fact alone presents a considerable issue for even the most seasoned criminal attorney, her statement immediately after the alleged grabbing of her husband to “call the police” and that she’s “going to tell them that you (her husband) just assaulted me (Ms. Novak)” could circumstantially throw away any legitimate argument she had.

While not yet formally charged through information of any crime, Ms. Novak is accused of domestic battery and in some capacity violating the conditions of her initial pretrial release. Domestic battery in Florida is nothing more than an allegation of battery against a family or household member. A battery in this case would be proven if the State Attorney can show beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Novak intentionally touched or struck the unnamed husband against his will or alternatively if it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Novak intentionally caused bodily harm to the unnamed husband. Ms. Novak, while still technically married to the unnamed husband, is a spouse and thus considered a family or household member thereby satisfying the domestic enhancement in this charge. So what difference does it make if a battery case is considered domestic in nature?

When a simple battery is ramped up to a domestic battery, the direct and collateral penalties/consequences become more severe. Initially, if your battery is considered domestic in nature, you will not receive a schedule bond and must see a Judge at a first appearance/advisory in order to have pretrial release conditions considered. As a general rule, if one stands accused of a domestic battery and the alleged victim desires for the case to move forward, there is a strong likelihood that the accused will have a no contact order placed against him or her and will not be able to contact the alleged victim, often their children if the circumstances are relevant for this, and will not be able to return to the shared residence. Under Florida Statute 741.283 if the accused is convicted and there is a showing that bodily harm was inflicted upon the victim, a five-day minimum mandatory jail sentence will be imposed. Even if a plea is entered and a withhold of adjudication is imposed, because the domestic battery is an act of domestic violence as described in Florida Statute 741.28, the record will never be permitted to be sealed or expunged. Under Florida Statute 790.06 if one pleas to a domestic battery or domestic violence related charge, that person’s concealed carry license will be revoked and the individual must go three years from the time is completed before he or she will be considered for a new concealed carry permit.

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A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of St. Louis teen Michael Brown. After nearly three months, the grand jury comprised of seven men and five women, nine white and three black heard evidence from 60 witnesses and met 25 times. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney William P. McCulloch cited inconsistent witness testimony, thereby making it difficult to present a clear picture of what occurred in the 90-second confrontation between Officer Wilson and Mr. Brown. The grand jury considered charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, all before failing to find that probable cause was established to return a true bill of indictment to charge Officer Wilson.

To lead in, any loss of life is tragic. No one wins in this situation. A young man lost his life, his parents lost a son, and a police officer has possibly lost a career and will have to live with the fact that he had to use lethal force while on the job. In this case, at least from what was visible, due process was performed and the grand jury failed to return a true bill of indictment after having been presented with a considerable amount of evidence over a very long period of time. Article I, Section 16 of Missouri’s Constitution requires that 9 of 12 members on a grand jury find that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed in order to return a true bill of indictment.

Unlike a standard jury trial, a grand jury is performed without the presence of a criminal defense attorney and the proceeding is not open as a standard trial is. Using the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (“FRCP”) as a guide can better explain how a typical grand jury system works. Though there is no enumerated quorum for a grand jury to convene, FRCP 6(a)(1) requires between 16 and 23 members of a grand jury in order for the grand jury proceeding to move forward. In a grand jury proceeding a Prosecutor will call witnesses and present evidence before the panel in an effort to prove by a probable cause standard (more probable than not) that a crime has been committed. Unlike a jury trial, these proceedings are conducted in secret with the only individuals present being government attorneys, the witness being questioned, a court reporter, and possibly a translator. FRCP 6(d)(1). There is no defense attorney to represent the accused’s interest or to make timely objections to otherwise inadmissible evidence. For instance, it is proper to present hearsay evidence to a grand jury. United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 (1974). Of course the hope is that the Prosecutor is ethical enough to vet the garbage hearsay from that that is most assuredly reliable, if there is such a thing as reliable hearsay. Once all evidence has been presented, the grand jury retires to a deliberation room, much like a jury would in a jury trial, to determine whether enough of them believe probable cause has been established. In Missouri, had 9 of 12, or 75% of them believed probable cause was established, they would have returned a true bill of indictment. In the Federal system 12 jurors must believe probable cause is present to return a true bill of indictment. FRCP 6(f). If an indictment is issued it will likely be under seal until the defendant can be brought in to custody.
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Volusia County woman Angela Stoldt of Deltona is accused of stabbing her neighbor, James Sheaffer, in the eyes with an ice pick before strangling him to death in a cemetery. After the alleged murder, Ms. Stoldt is accused of taking Mr. Sheaffer’s corpse back to her kitchen where she is said to have dismembered his body, followed by her attempt to cremate the remains. After her cremation attempt failed, Ms. Stoldt is alleged to have simply throw his remaining body parts out with the trash. As one can imagine, Ms. Stoldt’s alleged attempt to dispose of the evidence failed, instead leading to her arrest on murder charges. Ultimately Ms. Stoldt was charged with murder, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse.

According to news reports, Ms. Stoldt was originally charged with second-degree murder until a Grand Jury returned an indictment for first-degree murder on or around November 12, 2014. Unfortunately for Ms. Stoldt, when one is indicted for first-degree murder there is the ever present potential for the death penalty. As for both first and second-degree murder in Florida, it must be proven that 1) there is a death, and 2) the death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant. What differentiates the degrees of murder is the mental state element. For a first-degree murder charge to stick, the State Attorney must prove that the defendant killed the victim with premeditation as opposed to merely performing an act imminently dangerous to another with a depraved mind. In other words, a first-degree murder charge requires an intent with some thought rather than just going a bit crazy and acting like a madman. For Ms. Stoldt, if she did in fact gouge out Mr. Sheaffer’s eyes and then follow that up with choking him, it would be more difficult for her criminal lawyer say that a singular depraved act caused the death. Furthermore, the combination of acts would provide support for an argument that there was ample time for reflection, which in turn lends support for the State’s allegation of premeditation.
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Oscar Pistorius, renowned Paralympic sprinter was sentenced yesterday to five years in a South African prison for the shooting and killing of his then girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Mr. Pistorius was found not guilty of a more serious murder charge he stood trial for earlier this year but was convicted of culpable homicide for shooting Ms. Steenkamp several times in the middle of the night in what Mr. Pistorius claims was self defense out of fear that one had intruded into his home. South African prosecutors argued for a minimum of 10 years as a prison sentence for Mr. Pistorius but were unsuccessful in their bid for the heavy handed punishment. Conversely, Mr. Pistorius’ defense team argued for community service hours and house arrest. Judge Thokozile Masipa seemingly split the difference the two sides were arguing for by imposing a five-year prison sentence of which only 10 months are expected to be served in the Kgosi Mampuru prison with the balance of his time to be served as a house arrest sentence, assuming the requisite negotiation with prison officials is successful.

All in all, despite how one may feel about the outcome of the Pistorius case, his lawyers appear to have done a fine job in their representation of Mr. Pistorius. As a threshold charge, Mr. Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder, a comparable charge to first-degree murder in Florida. As a general rule, a generic first degree murder charge requires proving the same elements as Florida’s first degree murder statute in that someone is dead, that death was caused by the actions of another, and those actions were premeditated. Premeditation means killing after a conscious decision to do so. The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing, however in Florida the law does not detail an exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the actual killing. All that is needed is that time period be long enough to allow reflection by the killer and that the premeditated intent to kill is formed before the killing. The premeditation is almost always where first-degree murder charge fails, and based upon the facts of the Pistorius case, it is easy to see how there would be reasonable doubt of premeditation versus gross negligence or recklessness, both mindsets insufficient for a first-degree murder charge.
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Video of former Tampa Police Captain Curtis Reeves, Jr. shooting and killing local man Chad Oulson will be viewed in open Court according to Pasco County Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa. Reeves Jr. has been charged with second-degree murder for his actions. Several media outlets have requested footage of the video. Pasco County Prosecutors sought a Judicial order prior to turning over footage of the alleged second degree murder citing Florida Statute 406.136, a statute that makes it a third degree felony to turn over footage of a “killing of a person” to a third party not enumerated within the statute. The Statute was created to protect the families of victims from further emotional damage.

In this instance, the Florida statute’s restrictions tend to conflict with Section 21 of Florida’s Constitution. Section 21 states, “[t]he courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.” This Florida Constitution clause is in accord with the Sixth Amendment of the United States’ dictate that a defendant is entitled to a “public trial by an impartial jury.” Traditionally this clause has been interpreted to allow for spectators to observe Court proceedings unless the excess publicity would serve to undermine the defendant’s right to due process.” Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966).
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Tampa man, Darrell Strong was charged with discharging a firearm in public, aggravated assault with a firearm and burglary for the purpose of a battery after firing at another man in the parking lot of the Tampa Home Depot located on Dale Mabry Highway. According to police reports, Raymond Lindstrom of New Port Richey was leaving the parking lot of the Home Depot and drove too closely to Strong’s wife’s vehicle, making it difficult to pass safely. As Lindstrom and Strong’s wife passed, a verbal altercation occurred through each of their windows prompting the intervention by Darrell Strong. Darrell Strong and his friend John Christian confronted Lindstrom, who remained in his vehicle. An argument escalated and eventually a fight broke out as Lindstrom was still in the driver’s seat. Lindstrom ultimately drew his concealed firearm leading to Strong and Christian attempting to take it from him. Strong and Christian then ran to their vehicles to retrieve a firearm as Lindstrom attempted to leave the parking lot but had to drive back by the two men due to Lindstrom’s lane dead ending. As Lindstrom drove back by the two men, Strong fired two shots at Lindstrom. Police estimated approximately 12 people were between Strong and Lindstrom when the shots were fired.
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A man in South Carolina was pushed off his moped and subsequently beaten with his own prosthetic leg Monday afternoon. Joel Parrish, 35, of Myrtle Beach is alleged to have performed this ridiculous and heinous act without any reason being offered or provocation known. Parrish may as well give up on his dream of being Myrtle Beach’s citizen of the year and his chances at earning a key to the city are likely compromised after he inflicted head injuries to the man on the moped. It’s doubtful his partner in the crime, who is alleged to have held down the man on the moped, will be asked to join the Big Brothers, Big Sisters chapter of Myrtle Beach either. Both men are alleged to have pushed the man off of his moped only to punch and kick him while ultimately beating him with his prosthetic leg when it came off in the fracas. According to a police report it is recommended that the particular South Carolina State Attorney’s Office charge Parrish with Assault and Battery of the 2nd Degree.

I’m not a South Carolina lawyer so I have no earthly idea what the gravity of the charges are against Mr. Parrish in his home State. I’ve handled enough cases to know that if you’re accused of this kind of thing in the Bay area you better get a good Tampa criminal attorney retained sooner rather than later. If this type of thing happened in the Tampa area I could see someone being charged with battery or in the alternative possibly aggravated battery and very likely criminal mischief to whatever level.
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Hillsborough County woman, Laquavia Sharelle Wallace, 28, was arrested on April 16, 2013 in Manatee County for domestic battery after allegedly travelling to her ex-boyfriend’s house to pick up their child and demanding to reinstate their relationship. Upon her arrival and levying of demands, Antonio Williams informed Ms. Wallace that he was uninterested in reigniting their love light, clearly to his detriment. In what can only be imagined to be the scenario of “if I can’t have you, no one can,” Wallace proceeded to grab the penis of Mr. Williams, yanking it violently thereby causing him extreme pain. Luckily for Mr. Williams he was able to overcome the assault by grabbing Ms. Wallace’s arms and fending her off. Ultimately Ms. Wallace was arrested in Manatee County and charged with misdemeanor domestic battery. Not necessarily surprisingly for a domestic violence type of case, Mr. Williams has asked the State Attorney’s Office not to prosecute the case.

Domestic Violence in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 741.28 and defines “domestic violence” for purposes of this particular set of facts as any battery resulting in physical injury to a family member. “Family Member” as applicable to this pair of combatants would apply because they have a common child together. Lastly, Florida Statute 784.03 describes a battery as an actual or intentional touching or striking of another person against their will; or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person. According to the facts of this incident, should the State Attorney decide to move forward on the charges they could potentially prove the case. If the State has adequate testimony from the victim, preferably an independent witness, or pictures of injury they would have a shot at proving this domestic battery beyond a reasonable doubt. As with any battery case, without injury or independent witnesses, a savvy Tampa criminal lawyer could assert a he said/she said defense and cite the fact that the State can’t meet their burden of proving that there is no other reasonable explanation for the allegations but for the notion that a battery has occurred. That’s not easy to do.
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George Zimmerman, the man who stands accused of Second Degree Murder for the death of teenager Trayvon Martin will not be going forward on a Motion for Immunity previously scheduled for April 2013. A Motion for Immunity, otherwise known to the world outside the legal community as a “Stand Your Ground” motion is a pretrial motion asserting that an individual is immune from prosecution for an allegation of violence levied against an individual. In essence a Stand Your Ground motion asserts that an individual had a right to use such force so as to protect themselves against the unlawful force of another. On February 5th of this year George Zimmerman’s criminal attorney requested that Zimmerman’s trial be continued beyond the June date citing the need for more time and money to lay the groundwork for the trial. This request was denied, ultimately to be the catalyst for Zimmerman’s lawyer’s decision to forego the Motion for Immunity and focus on the trial.

Florida Statute 776.012 justifies the use of deadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. Florida Statute 776.012 is cited in Florida Statute 776.032 where it says that a person who uses force as permitted in 776.012 is justified in doing so and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force unless the person against whom the force is used is law enforcement acting in the performance of their duties and the officer identifies themselves.
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