Stand your ground defense denied for suspect
A Palm Beach County judge denied the stand your ground defense for a Jupiter man charged with murdering a Guatemalan man in an alleged hate crime.
Judge Samantha Schosberg-Feuer denied David Harris's motion to dismiss charges against him based on the "stand your ground" defense.
Officials say Harris, along with his brother Jesse Harris and another person, Austin Taggart, killed Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos outside a Jupiter home after a fight on April 18, 2015.
Schosberg-Feuer said in a 15-page ruling Friday that she denied him immunity from charges because she found the state showed his use of force during the 2015 fight was not justifiable.
In the ruling, Schosberg-Feuer said she believes the new change in Florida law that shifts the burden of proof from the defendant to the state applies retroactively and applies to this case.
Harris' attorney and state prosecutors presented their case to Schosberg-Feuer in a three-day hearing, which was delivered similar to a trial.
Schosberg-Feuer said she felt the state had to "prove by clear and convincing evidence the defendant is not entitled to immunity." The court had to find that Harris's force was necessary to prevent an imminent death or violent act, Harris was not committing a crime, and Harris was in a place he had a right to be.
She found Harris was initially invited into the yard by the victim's relative. However, she said in the ruling she denied him immunity because she found the state showed his use of force during the fight was not justifiable.
Harris's testimony was "unreliable and not credible," Schosberg-Feuer wrote. She said his testimony of the fight was different from statements he initially gave detectives. She said Harris was aware Taggart wanted to go "Guat hunting" and went anyway.
In the ruling, Schosberg-Feuer said Harris failed to qualify for the stand your ground defense under the original burden as well.
She said that the question of which burden of proof is to be applied is ultimately a quest for appellate courts.
Harris is scheduled to go to trial on April 2.
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