Sunday, May 18, 2008

Florida: This old guy was clearly in immediate danger from an aggressive young guy. How come he got convicted of anything?

A jury on Friday evening convicted Jose Tapanes of manslaughter, despite his contention he acted in self-defense in the predawn shotgunning of a neighbor in The Acreage. Tapanes, 63, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison when he is sentenced June 9. The jury returned the verdict after six hours of deliberation, which followed a five-day trial.

Tapanes, seated at the defense table, shook his head after the verdict was read. His attorney, Public Defender Carey Haughwout, slipped an arm around his shoulders. Haughwout said she planned to appeal.

"I think the family is pleased with the verdict," Assistant State Attorney Andy Slater said.

Christopher Cote, 19, had moved in with his family across the street from Tapanes in September 2006 when the two argued as Cote walked his dog after 3 a.m. Cote then got in his Jeep, drove up Tapanes' driveway, got out and knocked on his door. When Tapanes opened the door, he fired twice into Cote's gut with a pistol grip pump shotgun, killing him.

Cote's mother, Janet Murphy, wiped at tears after the verdict was read. She left the courtroom without a word.

Tapanes faced a first-degree murder charge, which could have sent him to prison for life. But he was convicted only of manslaughter with a firearm. Neighbors said shortly after the shooting that Tapanes lived an eccentric life - he went through their trash religiously - and lived in a falling-down house with five dogs and several chickens. But he never seemed violent.

"The problem could have been resolved by a simple call to 911," Slater said in closing arguments. "This isn't a case of self-defense. It's a case of an angry man ... territorial in nature." Slater didn't dispute that Cote was foolish for resuming the confrontation on Tapanes' property. "Because we do something foolish, doesn't mean we deserve to legally die for that," he said.

But Haughwout pointed out that Cote's family didn't call 911 either. Instead, they ran after him, futilely shouting for him to come back. Tapanes, she said, had good reason to fear for his life. "He did what he had a right to do," she said. "He armed himself."

Slater and co-prosecutor Adam McMichael argued at trial that Tapanes' first shot knocked Cote down, but was not fatal. At that point, they said, Tapanes could have retreated inside his home, because any perceived danger had passed. Instead, he fired a blast to Cote's abdomen that severed his aorta.

Haughwout defended the second shot. "You don't stop until you know the threat is eliminated," she said. Slater countered, "If you're afraid, you don't open the door."


Pa.: Trespasser shot: "Timothy Louis Morrison, Jr., of 966 Chestnut St., Freeland, was arraigned Thursday on charges of robbery and burglary and two counts of criminal trespass. Police say he entered the back door of Antoinette Blacer's home at 968 Chestnut St. on Tuesday. Blacer shot Morrison in the upper body with her semi-automatic pistol in self-defense, and he required hospital treatment, police said. According to the affidavit, Blacer heard yelling, then a sound of banging from her back door. Her daughter, Laurie Harper, was screaming to let her in. But as Blacer let Harper inside, Morrison was holding onto her arm, trying to pull her back. Blacer told police he was yelling, "I want my money!" As he began shoving, Blacer screamed, "Get out of my house! Get out of my house!" During the shoving match, Blacer grabbed a small black pistol from a cabinet and hit Morrison with it several times. The gun went off, Blacer told police, and Morrison was hit. He fled the house."

Ma.: Crackhead shot: "Before firing the shots that killed a knife-wielding suspect, two city police officers tried to subdue the man with pepper spray, but he charged up a stairway toward them, police said. "He makes the choice that determines their response," Police Chief Ronald Teachman said. Mr. Tierney of 5 Ellen St. was shot to death after he reportedly ran at the officers while armed with two knives. Chief Teachman said police believe Mr. Tierney was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time. "His behavior might have been consistent with smoking crack cocaine," the chief said... According to police, the incident occurred around 4:50 p.m. when officers responded to a report of a knife-wielding man threatening a neighbor on Ellen Street, located off Brock Avenue. The neighbor told police he was turning on his lawn sprinklers when Mr. Tierney, armed with two large kitchen knives, unexpectedly assaulted him. The neighbor told police he was chased onto his front porch and ran inside his house, where he called 911. The neighbor told police he did not know Mr. Tierney and said he had not done anything to provoke him. "The victim described the assailant as acting crazy and that his eyes were bugging out," Chief Teachman said. "The victim was terrified." Police said a coffee table close to the spot where Mr. Tierney was at the bottom of the stairway had a dozen or more beer cans on it and paraphernalia consistent with the use of crack cocaine. Police said Mr. Tierney's actions were consistent with someone under the influence of crack, and also noted his extensive criminal record that recently included a five-year jail sentence for unarmed robbery."

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