A judge on Friday denied a 22-year-old South Florida man’s request to have charges against him thrown out in the 2015 killing of a Hispanic teen under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer on Friday denied David Harris’ claims that he was defending himself and his younger brother, Jesse Harris, when the Jupiter resident swung an ax and hit Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos, 18, in the back of the head during an April 2015 confrontation.
Harris, charged with his younger brother and a third young man, Austin Taggart, had claimed that the three of them were headed to a park to smoke marijuana when they were confronted by Lopez-Ramos, his older brother, Elmer, and others drinking outside a home they shared.
But he also told investigators after his arrest that Taggart had told him before the altercation that he wanted to go “Guat hunting,” a street term for robbing Hispanic men.
And despite the self-defense claims from defense attorney Franklin Prince, Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone in a two-part hearing on the matter told Feuer that Harris had never made the self-defense claims at the time of his arrest.
With the judge’s ruling, Harris’ case survives one of the first major tests of a shift in Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.
Under the old law, a defendant hoping to get a case dismissed would have to prove to a judge that he or she was immune from prosecution. Now, prosecutors are the ones who have to prove to a judge that defendants who claim “Stand Your Ground” were not acting in self-defense.
Harris’ trial is set to begin April 2. The other two men will face trial separately.