Four years ago, a federal agent was shot and killed in a post office parking lot in west Pembroke Pines. State, local, and even federal authorities embarked upon a manhunt looking for the the accused murderer.
The accused, an elderly Miramar man, was arrested and charged with murder at first. A grand jury later indicted him on one count of manslaughter.
As the facts became more apparent, it seemed as though the accused wasn't a cold-blooded killer but rather an elderly man who shot and killed the federal agent out of fear.
The incident began on the road. Both the federal agent - who was not on duty at the time and was driving with his young daughter - and the accused were heading north on Dykes Road in Pembroke Pines. The accused may have accidentally cut the federal agent off, sparking what investigators have admitted was a road rage incident.
The accused pulled into the post office parking lot and was followed by the agent. The agent - who was significantly younger, approximately eighty pounds heavier, and very aggressive - exited his car and approached the accused on foot. The agent was reportedly shouting at the accused.
The accused - a concealed weapon permit holder - was afraid and fired his weapon, killing the agent.
This week, over four years after this shooting, a Broward Circuit Court judge will hear testimony from eyewitnesses and possibly even the accused himself as the accused raises a Stand Your Ground claim for immunity.
A Stand Your Ground claim is raised before trial in the form of a pre-trial motion. By law, a judge must grant the defendant a hearing whereby the court must decide whether the force used (in this case lethal force) was justified. In order to do that, the court must determine whether: 1) the accused was in a place where he or she had the right to be and was not engaged in criminal activity; and 2) whether the accused possessed a reasonable belief that the force used was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury.
Taking everything into consideration, the judge will have to decide whether the accused was justified in killing the federal agent. If the judge believes that the accused's actions were justified, the case will be dismissed. If not, the case will proceed to trial and the accused can present a standard self-defense claim.
Eric Matheny is a Miami criminal attorney and Broward criminal attorney. To speak with Attorney Eric Matheny directly, call (305) 542-9491.