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Tavis D. Wilson: 18-year-old in custody after shootout with Riviera Beach police

Teen Acquitted of Attempted Murder

By DAPHNE DURET
Friday, July 26, 2013

WEST PALM BEACH — It took a jury little more than an hour Friday to clear a Riviera Beach teenager of attempted murder charges in connection with a January 2012 shooting at the South Florida Fairgrounds that left two other teens injured.

Tommy Poindexter was just 17 when deputies arrested him, initially charging him with shooting two other teens in a gun battle that witnesses said capped off a fight between two groups of people just after midnight and caused an hour-long lockdown at the fairgrounds.

But the facts revealed in Poindexter’s three-day trial before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Stephen Rapp this week presented a much murkier scenario of what happened that night. First, although Poindexter was initially charged with shooting a teenage girl and boy in the incident, tests revealed that it was Alfred Minus – the male victim – who had shot the female victim in the case.

Minus told deputies that someone handed him a gun after Poindexter started firing at him, and he shot off six rounds into the crowd in self-defense. The sheriff’s office ruled Minus’ actions justifiable and never charged him with the girl’s shooting – a move that still baffles Poindexter’s West Palm Beach attorney Scott Skier.

“It’s just concerning, if that’s where we’ve gone with what is permissible with guns in a public space,” Skier said. “That the sheriff’s office, and by extension the state, is condoning a 17 year-old at the fairgrounds shooting off six rounds, is something I don’t understand.”

Skier, in his last words to jurors, said that although prosecutors Lauren Godden and John Parnofiello were asking them to convict Poindexter for shooting Minus, all they proved was that Minus shot the teenage girl.

But Godden and Parnofiello also had to prosecute Poindexter without the testimony of a key witness in the case who initially provided deputies with details linking Poindexter to the scene but later recanted.

And although another teen who was Minus’ girlfriend at the time of the shooting testified about an argument between Minus and Poindexter before the shooting, Minus himself said the two never exchanged words.

Skier also argued that once the shooting began it was difficult to figure out who was shooting. A deputy on the scene who testified in the case described the scattering of the crowd once the shots rang out to the “parting of the red sea.”

He said he and another deputy spotted three people running away faster than the rest, and between the two of them they detained all three. Poindexter was one of them, and Minus at the scene identified his shooter as “Rone” – Poindexter’s street name.

Other discrepancies aside, Skier believes, jurors elected to acquit Poindexter because they, too, were bewildered that Minus’ actions were deemed justified.

Despite his acquittal, Rapp ordered Poindexter to remain in jail. Poindexter still has to answer to charges of possession of a firearm by a delinquent, and he also faces a charge from an alleged purse-snatching incident for which he was arrested while awaiting trial in the shooting case.

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Jurors Acquit Man Accused of Killing Former Girlfriend

By DAPHNE DURET
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

WEST PALM BEACH — It took a jury just three hours of deliberation Tuesday to acquit 27-year-old Martine Murat on first-degree murder charges in the September 2009 shooting death of his 23-year-old former girlfriend Stephanie Geary.

The verdict means Murat, who was facing a mandatory life sentence had the jury convicted him, will be a free man as early as Tuesday night.

Prosecutors built their case on cell phone records and witness testimony during the week-long trial. But Murat’s attorney Scott Skier grilled investigators in the case about the lack of physical evidence linking Murat to the crime scene or the car prosecutors say he rammed into the back of the car Geary was riding in before he shot her in the head as she tried to get away.

“I don’t think the investigation met the jurors’ expectations,” Skier said after the verdict.

In his closing arguments, Skier told jurors there was no way they could trust the testimony of Henry McNish, prosecutors’ key witness in the case and the man driving the car Murat was alleged to have crashed into after a violent confrontation between the three sparked a car chase.

McNish told police he and Geary were on their way to the Palm Beach County jail to report that Murat had pulled a gun on Geary just moments earlier outside a Circle K convenience store in West Palm Beach.

Skier called it implausible that McNish, who was on federal probation at the time, and Geary, who was homeless and had turned to prostitution to survive, would drive to a jail.

Assistant State Attorneyss Aleathea McRoberts and Adrienne Ellis after the verdict said they respected the jury’s decision but had no more to say.

Both read to jurors from a long string of text messages to and from a phone registered to Murat.

Text messages from before the murder showed Murat pleading with Geary to continue their relationship. Geary told him to leave her alone and give her time to think.

No matter the choices she made in her short life, McRoberts told jurors, Geary did not deserve to die as she had.

“This is tragedy compounded upon tragedy,” she said.

Though prosecutors linked a gold Honda Murat had borrowed from his brother to the West Palm Beach crime scene, Skier brought out testimony from a defense witness that identified a white SUV as the car leaving the scene.

Skier pointed out that although the Honda was later discovered and swabbed for DNA, investigators never submitted it to the lab for testing, so they had nothing tying Murat to the car. Investigators attributed the decision to a lack of time and money.

Prosecutors had pointed out a string of text messages after the murder between Murat and someone else – presumably a relative – offers Murat details from the crime scene and eventually encourages Murat to “ditch the piece.” No murder weapon was ever found.

Ellis told jurors that perhaps the best evidence of Murat’s involvement in Geary’s murder came from what he didn’t do. After badgering Geary, nicknamed ‘Special,’ his attempts abruptly stopped after Geary was killed.

“This is as ‘guilty as charged’ as they come,” Ellis said.

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Charges against man’s shooter dropped

By DAPHNE DURET
WEST PALM BEACH — If anything, his attorney said, Horatio McKenley was the victim.

Defense attorney Scott Skier said he would have tried to prove that in a trial, had prosecutors Friday not dropped attempted-murder charges against the 48-year-old man accused of shooting a homeless ex-convict in what Skier called a classic case of self-defense.

McKenley was arrested in October after Miguel Hernandez staggered into St. Ann’s Place at Dixie Highway and 20th Street, suffering from a gunshot wound. Skier said McKenley shot Hernandez, who was two weeks out of prison at the time, after days of repeated bullying.

Skier said a surveillance video shows Hernandez assaulting McKenley outside McKenley’s nearby apartment shortly before McKenley pulled a gun from his waistband. Skier said he would have called as a witness a woman whom Hernandez is accused of beating just minutes before encountering McKenley.

Skier said because both beatings happened just outside McKenley’s apartment, he could have argued that McKenley was acting both to defend himself and to keep further harm from coming to the woman. The attorney could not provide a copy of the surveillance video Friday but said it was disturbing.

“I’ve seen murders captured on video and could handle it, but I don’t like to watch this one,” he said. “If he (Hernandez) would have hit me like that, I would’ve been knocked out for three days.”

The fact that Hernandez was shot as he turned away worked against McKenley, Skier said. But he said he felt strongly enough about McKenley’s case that he pursued it aggressively, asserting McKenley’s right to a speedy trial to force prosecutors to bring Hernandez forward to face witnesses who would have deemed him the aggressor.

But Hernandez failed to cooperate with prosecutors, never showed up to pretrial interviews and ignored a subpoena to appear at a non-jury trial scheduled before Circuit Judge Karen Miller on Friday. So prosecutors dropped the charges.

McKenley spent a month in jail before Miller released him on $50,000 bail. Hernandez spent nearly 10 years in prison on armed robbery and burglary charges.

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Murder Charge Dropped Before Trial

By Susan Spencer-Wendel
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sept. 18, 2007

Curtis “Wee Wee” Duncan was supposed to be on trial for his life Monday.

Jailed for the past year, Duncan was accused of first-degree murder and faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted. Now he walks free.

Prosecutors dropped the case against the 37-year-old Friday after a key eyewitness, deposed by defense attorney Scott Skier, identified another man as the second shooter.

Duncan said Monday that from the time of his arrest he told police they had the wrong guy, that he had nothing to do with the September 2006 shooting of Karri Shannon in Riviera Beach.

“They falsely accused me. It hurts,” he said. “It’s over, and I thank God for it.”

Police say Shannon and three friends sat in a car awaiting a cocaine delivery when two men approached and driver Shannon was shot repeatedly in the head. Passenger Nicholas Kitchen also was shot, but survived.

The Violent Crimes Task Force swiftly arrested Duncan and Tavares “Red” Preston after Kitchen identified Preston and Duncan. Another passenger in the car identified only Preston.

Skier says he believes police may have injected Duncan’s name when interviewing Kitchen and prompted him to identify Duncan.

The Violent Crimes Task Force was launched in April 2006 to combat a surge in street crime. Murders topped 100 that same year, the most in more than a decade.

“I believe they are under pressure to produce and are doing it without total regard for the strength of their case,” Skier said.

Since Duncan’s arrest a year ago, a female witness approached prosecutors to tell them of a man who told her he committed the crime. Then on Friday, passenger Luckner Riche named the same man as the second shooter, Skier said.

Assistant State Attorneys Kirk Volker said following those accounts he did not believe he could prove the case against Duncan beyond a reasonable doubt and dropped the charges against him.

Volker declined to comment further, saying Shannon’s death is still an open criminal investigation. He said a grand jury may again consider a suspect or suspects whose names have surfaced.

Preston remains charged with first-degree murder in Shannon’s death. He is set for trial in January.

His defense attorney, Steve Malone, said Preston too maintains he had nothing to do with Shannon’s death.

Skier said it took considerable follow-up work by him and private investigator Mark Murnan, exploring motives and the people involved before the case against Duncan was dropped.

More and more financial caps are now put on costs of investigation in cases like Duncan’s. Duncan privately retained Skier, but was declared indigent for basic costs entitled to every defendant and paid by taxpayers. Under the new lower fee schedules, less work may be done for reduced money. Defendants like Duncan could more easily be wrongfully convicted, Skier said.

Duncan said he is grateful for the work the attorney and investigator were able to do.

“I thank God for them, too,” he said.

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Extradited Shooting Suspect Arrives from Texas

By Allison Ross
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Dec. 26, 2010

A 34-year-old man found in Texas is back in Palm Beach County and charged with attempted murder after Jupiter police said he is responsible for the shooting of a 32-year-old man in November. Victor Lozano, a resident of Mexico, made his first appearance in a Palm Beach County courtroom Saturday morning, alongside his attorney, Scott Skier, and an interpreter.

Lozano is being held without bail on charges that he shot Hector Carillo, although bail could be set during a full evidentiary hearing later.

Police responded to a traffic crash Nov. 27 at Indiantown Road and Military Trail involving a blue Volkswagen and a black sedan.

Carrillo, the driver and sole occupant of the Volkswagen, told police he had been shot in a different traffic accident near Hepburn Avenue and Evernia Street, a half-mile northeast of the crash site.

Carrillo was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach after the crash.

Lozano was in the Dallas suburb of Kaufman, Texas, when he was arrested without incident with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service. He was extradited to Florida.

Skier said that Lozano is in the United States illegally, complicating questions of bail.

He said that the probable cause affidavit for Lozano’s arrest leaves “far more questions than details.”

Skier added that his West Palm Beach law firm believes that Lozano has been “misidentified as being involved in the shooting.”

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Trial starts for two men accused in 2007 suburban Delray Beach killing

By DAPHNE DURET
Thursday, February 16, 2012

It was treatment for a back injury that started John Blazevige on a prescription drug dependency he was desperately trying to shake in 2007, prosecutors said.

On April 14 of that year, though he had moved to Okeechobee with his girlfriend looking for a fresh start, he found himself at a cash advance store asking for $500 to get more pills.

Then, Assistant State Attorneys Sherri Collins told a jury Thursday, Blazevige made the fatal choice to meet his friend Louis Baccari.

Collins said Baccari fatally shot Blazevige near Delray Beach after taking his money for pills. A first-degree murder trial began Thursday for Baccari and his alleged accomplice, Michael Marquardt.

“John Blazevige put his trust in the wrong people,” Collins said to jurors in opening statements.

But Baccari’s and Marquardt’s defense attorneys paint a much different picture of what led to the death of Blazevige, who had formerly lived in West Palm Beach.

They say prosecutors’ star witness, Antonio Bussey, is the only one responsible.

Bussey pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 21-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against Baccari and Marquardt. Bussey said Baccari was the triggerman, but defense attorneys Scott Skier and Charles Fountain point to the fact that Bussey’s DNA was found on the murder weapon.

The defense also plans to call a witness — one of Bussey’s former cell mates — who says Bussey made a jailhouse confession about his involvement.

“Mr. Bussey is a bragger,” Skier, Marquardt’s attorney, told jurors. “‘I killed that guy. And I also should have killed Michael [Marquardt].’ That’s what he told the witness you will hear from.”

Skier said Marquardt, a landscape company owner who lived in Boynton Beach, had picked up Baccari and Bussey to have them help him with a project.

Though Collins said it was Marquardt who pressured Bussey into remaining quiet about the murder initially, Skier said it was the other way around, that Bussey terrorized Marquardt and his family.

Collins said she will show jurors phone records and other evidence that Baccari, a longtime friend of Blazevige’s, arranged the meeting between them so he could steal the $500 Blazevige had withdrawn hours earlier from a check-cashing store.

Fountain dismissed the prosecutor’s claims. “It doesn’t matter. Because nothing happened besides the fact that another man, Antonio Bussey, got out of that car and shot John Blazevige,” Fountain said.

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West Palm Beach man in manslaughter case gets 60 days for probation violation

By Daphne Duret
Thursday, June 19, 2014

WEST PALM BEACH —

A West Palm Beach man was sentenced to 60 days in jail on a probation violation stemming from manslaughter charges in the 2008 death of a relative who jumped into a pond and drowned to escape a beating from him and two other people.

James Paulk, 37, was one of three people arrested in connection with the death of 28-year-old Frederick Campbell. Police said Campbell fled from a fight with the trio, landed in a retaining pond — although he couldn’t swim — and drowned.

In 2011, Paulk’s co-defendant, Damion Wilburn, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and false imprisonment and received a five-year prison sentence along with 10 years of probation. Paulk received the same but was recently arrested for failing a court-ordered drug test.

According to arrest reports, Paulk and Campbell were related, and he confronted Campbell about stealing from him.

Paulk went before Circuit Judge Karen Miller this morning and entered a plea to the violation through his attorney Scott Skier. Prosecutor Aleathea McRoberts argued to Miller that Paulk deserved jail time.

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