Joseph Bearden, the first of two men accused in the hate crime murder of Ryan Keith Skipper, has been found guilty on all counts. A jury found Bearden guilty of second-degree murder, theft of a motor vehicle, accessory after the fact to robbery with a weapon, tampering with evidence, and dealing in stolen property.
In March 2007, Skipper's body was found by the side of a rural road in central Florida with more than 20 stab wounds. His car and laptop had been stolen. The car was abandoned and recovered by authorites, who reported that the assailants had attempted to set it on fire but did not succeed. They had also cut out a seat belt because it was so bloody they couldn't clean it.
Bearden, 21, and William David Brown Jr., 20, were later arrested and indicted for the killing. A witness brought in by authorities at the time told police that Brown had killed Skipper because he was gay.
Brown is to be tried at a later date on charges of first-degree murder and robbery.
This verdict makes no logical LEGAL sense. By failing to convict on the underlying Robbery charge, the predicate for FELONY MURDER, how this jury can vote to convict for 2nd deg Murder is beyond reason. Further, due to the underlying charge of Robbery being a predicate for a charge of FELONY MURDER, there needn't have been any lessers uncluded in the Murder indictment. By convicting on Theft of a Motor Vehicle, there should have been a NOT GUILTY verdict on the 1st DEG or FELONY MURDER charge. There should have been no option for lesser included offenses on the top charge. Hopefully the Appeals Court will reverse the 2nd Deg Murder charge and direct the court to re-try this case on that basis, and other appealable issues.
The jury felt sympathy for the Defendant and spared his life, when they should have applied the law to the evidence. This is an illogical and erroneous decision on their part.