Shearod jury rejects murder, robbery charges
Damion Shearod is not guilty of felony murder in the shooting death of his friend, John Patrick Moore Jr., 21, during a 2007 botched robbery attempt.
The 22-year-old is not guilty of attempted armed robbery with a firearm.
He is guilty, according to a four-man, two-woman Lee County jury, of armed burglary of a dwelling.
State attorneys spent the better part of a week attempting to convince jurors that on May 16, Cape Coral resident Jacob Seckler shot and killed Moore with Moore’s revolver as he and Shearod attempted to rob Seckler at gunpoint.
Shearod, they argued, was responsible for Moore’s death because he was a principal to an attempted robbery on Seckler and his wife, Elizabeth Kachnic, at their home.
“For better or for worse, (Moore) got his justice,” Assistant State Attorney David Maijala said during his closing arguments Friday. “Today I ask that you give Jacob Seckler his justice. Convict Damion Shearod on all counts.”
However, after almost three hours behind closed doors Friday evening, the six jurors reached a unanimous verdict indicating Shearod was not criminally responsible for Moore’s death.
“Obviously that wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but burglary while armed is a serious offense and we were glad to get a conviction on that,” Maijala said following the trial’s conclusion.
Maijala said he wasn’t sure what factors may have contributed to the jury’s decision, nor would the jury members comment on the decision as they left Lee Circuit Judge Mark Steinbeck’s courtroom late Friday evening.
“If I could read jurors’ minds I would win every case,” Maijala said.
Shearod’s defense attorney, Maria Pace, declined comment Friday.
“One young man has lost his life because of this incident,” Pace said during closing arguments. “Myself and Mr. Shearod ask you to go back to the evidence, the conflicts in the state’s case, the lack of evidence in the state’s case, and return a verdict of not guilty, and give back Mr. Shearod’s life.”
Shearod took the stand in his own defense Friday, telling his version of the events leading to Moore’s death.
Shearod rode with Moore and Moore’s girlfriend, Jazzmyne Carrol-Love, from Fort Myers to Seckler’s Cape Coral home when told Moore needed to “pick something up,” Shearod testified.
Shearod, Moore and Carrol-Love passed Seckler’s home, circled the block then returned as Seckler mowed his lawn, Shearod said. Shearod testified that he and Moore got out of the car and Moore brandished a revolver, leading to a struggle between Moore and Seckler over the gun.
Shearod said he shoved Seckler and fled, at which point shots were fired.
“I didn’t really know what was going on, I was just scared,” Shearod said. “I took off running, because I didn’t want to get shot.”
Carrol-Love, who was detained by police after fleeing the scene in Shearod’s car, was initially charged in the incident. According to court documents, the state did not file charges against Carrol-Love because of insufficient evidence.
Shearod and Moore had never discussed a robbery, and Shearod often gave his friend rides so he thought nothing of the trip to Cape Coral, he told jurors.
“I didn’t know where we were going, I just gave him the keys,” Shearod testified.
Kachnic also testified Friday, and was called by the defense as a hostile witness for purposes of questioning.
The legal definition of a hostile witness suggests that he or she is considered aggressive or adversarial to the party calling the witness to testify. The ruling allows attorneys to ask leading questions on direct examination, a line of questioning normally only allowed during cross examination.
According to testimony, Kachnic and Seckler both believed an acquaintance of Kachnic’s named Carroll Cody was behind the incident leading to Moore’s death.
Kachnic, who said Cody cleaned her home, said Cody admitted to stealing a watch valued at $5,000-6,000.
Cody has not been accused as a suspect or charged in the incident.
Neither Kachnic nor Seckler could immediately be reached by telephone Friday evening.
Kachnic was inside her home when Moore and Shearod approached Seckler in the home’s front entryway, she said.
“I heard Jacob scream,” Kachnic said. “He asked me to call 911.”
Friday marks the second time Shearod has faced, but not been convicted of, murder charges.
A jury found Shearod guilty of second-degree murder in the 2005 shooting death of 18-year-old Giannis V. Avrampopulos in Lehigh Acres. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, however the charge was later dropped, according to court records.
Shearod will be sentenced Oct. 5.