Jury deliberates over Jupiter hate crime trial

Jury deliberates over Jupiter hate crime trial

Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos' face looked like he came out of a boxing match, beaten and swollen with his eyes still open, according to a Jupiter Police officer that found his body.

Prosecutors say Lopez-Ramos, 18, was killed by three men targeting Guatemalan people they were looking to rob in Jupiter in 2015.

David Harris is the first of the three suspects to stand trial for Lopez-Ramos's death, charged with first-degree murder while committing a hate crime. After five days of testimony, a Palm Beach County jury is now deliberating whether the killing was in cold-blood or was justified.

"David Harris swung that axe one time. He did not kill Oneismo," said Franklin Prince, Harris' attorney." Harris maintains the victim swung a pipe at him and Harris hit him with an axe in self-defence. Harris is blaming his co-defendant, Austin Taggart, for Lopez-Ramos' death.

"When Onesimo went down, Austin Taggart jumped on top of Onesimo and he pounded him with a rock," Prince said.

The three are accused of fighting Lopez-Ramos, fatally striking him with an axe and smashing his face in with a rock in Jupiter.

Harris told detectives after his arrest that Taggart went "Guat hunting," looking for Guatemalan people to steal from a rob on the night of Lopez-Ramos' killing. Prosecutors say Harris knew of Taggart's intent and went walking in Jupiter with a group of "buddies" when they ended at Lopez-Ramos' house.

"He came trying to grab me," Elmer Lopez-Ramos, the victim's brother, said via a translator in court about Harris. Elmer Lopez-Ramos said he felt threatened when he men arrived, grabbing an axe to defend himself but eventually ran. When he came back to the house, he said he found his brother beaten to death in the street.

"I touched his pulse. I put my ear up against his nose," Elmer Lopez-Ramos said.

Mauda Lopez-Ramos, 29, said her brother was in school and was returning home from work on the night of his death. She was inside the home sleeping during the fight but went outside when she woke up to a loud knock on her door.

"He never got up. I wanted him to get up but he never got up," Mauda Lopez-Ramos said.

The family, originally from Guatemala, moved to Jupiter in the early 2000s.

A Jupiter Police officer who responded to the scene testified when he arrived, he saw Lopez-Ramos laying on his back, face up with his eyes open.

"His face looked like the end of a boxing movie," the officer said in court. More officers arrived and they performed CPR on Lopez-Ramos, without success.

Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer denied Harris' "stand your ground" motion earlier this year.

"There was no violence. There was no threat," Prince said to Elmer Lopez-Ramos. "You were so drunk you went to get an axe and you eventually took that axe and you cut David Harris hand."

Taggart and Jesse Harris will be tried separately later this summer.

Harris said Elmer Lopez-Ramos squeezed his chest, which is how a fight began. "I was 265 pounds. I was insecure about my weight."

Harris said he chased Lopez-Ramos when Onesimo Lopez-Ramos came at him with a pipe so said he picked up the axe and hit Lopez-Ramos with it

"All I know is he fell down. I was there for about a minute, minute and a half," Harris said.

Then, he said he heard a boom, which he attributes to Taggart beating Lopez-Ramos' face with a rock.

"You cracked his head with such force that is only seen in car accidents," Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone said. Prosecutors said Taggart hit Lopez-Ramos with a piece of rebar and Harris struck him with an axe.

"A rock, rebar and an axe were all used on Onesimo as he laid face down in the dirt," Assistant State Attorney Marci Horwitz-Rex said. Palm Beach County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Bell ruled Lopez-Ramos' cause of death as blunt force trauma with injuries consistent to being beat.

"This is not a case of justifiable homicide," Horwitz-Rex said.

Prince maintains his client is not guilty of first-degree murder or a hate crime, saying their evidence does not match up to what prosecutors are claiming.

The jury is expected to continue deliberating Tuesday morning.

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