A Palm Beach fire-rescue captain was shot by a friend allegedly over prescription drugs that the two were selling together on the side. The fire captain had elevated levels of some of the drugs in his system when he died, police say. Sixty-three-year-old Jay Rind is now facing charges for third-degree felony murder and unlawful brandishing of a firearm.
Rind claims he accidentally shot James Gilliard and immediately called the police after the incident occurred. He claims he was offering Gilliard the gun, but it “went off”. In addition to the charges related to the incident, Gilliard is facing new charges in an amended complaint alleging drug trafficking and conspiracy to sell various controlled substances.
Rind told police he met Gilliard four years prior when he owned a pawn shop. Rind told police he sold jewelry. On the day of the shooting, Rind said he told Gilliard he was moving to Mexico and wanted to give him his guns because he couldn’t transport them there.
Rind insists he thought the gun was empty when he handed it to Gilliard.
What Really Happened?
It’s difficult to say. Rind claims the incident was an accident, so how would the prosecution overcome such a defense? The answer would be by going through Rind’s cellphone messages and social media accounts for any evidence that their meeting was related to a drug transaction. Since organizing a drug transaction is a felony, Gilliard’s death can be charged as felony murder since he died during the commission of a felony.
But what if he wasn’t organizing a drug transaction or committing any felony during the time of the shooting? Then both charges would disappear.
Felony Murder and Third-Degree Murder
We all know what first- and second-degree murder is, but what about third-degree murder? Second-degree felony murder is also called third-degree murder. Third-degree murder occurs when someone unintentionally kills somebody during the commission of a non-violent felony. Since the death wouldn’t have occurred but for the felony, it is charged as murder. Third-degree murder is considered a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years. Judges are required to sentence defendants to no less than 10 years unless there are grounds for a “downward departure” or mitigating circumstances that can justify a lesser penalty.
In this case, they have Rind and Gilliard discussing drug transactions, texting pictures of where they hid their drugs, and discussing how their drug trafficking operated. So Rind will face charges on drug trafficking and since the police believe the two were meeting for the purposes of drug trafficking, he will also be charged with third-degree murder. However, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that their meeting was for the purpose of arranging a drug transaction. Otherwise, Rind may not face charges related to his friend’s death.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with drug trafficking or shooting your friend, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. to discuss your situation in greater detail.