A bond hearing Monday for a 23-year-old man charged with the stabbing death of Marques Butler more closely resembled a trial at times, with emotional testimony and sobs erupting from a packed courtroom.
Early in the day, with about 75 spectators waiting to attend, and attorneys seeking more time to present testimony, Circuit Judge David Audlin first postponed the 8:30 a.m. bond hearing for Nicholas Ferro to the afternoon, when the judge's schedule was more flexible. He also moved the proceeding to a larger courtroom to accommodate the family and friends of both victim and accused.
The hearing to determine whether the Hollywood, Fla., man should be allowed to post bail pending his trial is expected to last several days.
Ferro is charged with second-degree murder and resisting arrest without violence in an early morning street fight in the 500 block of Caroline Street that left Butler mortally wounded. The fight occurred during Fantasy Fest week, when tens of thousands of revelers celebrate in Key West's Old Town historic district.
Ferro looked at his family and lawyers through much of the hearing.
Key West police Detective Janet Calvert told the judge the victim, a Key West native, was alert and able to speak after he was stabbed in the stomach during the street fight. She said Butler was able to describe his attacker -- a white man about 5-foot-6 with tattoos and no shirt.
Butler also uttered, "I'm gonna die," before he was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center.
He later died while undergoing surgery.
The packed courtroom erupted in sobs at one point, and the judge reminded those in attendance that they may need to leave the courtroom to regain their composure at times during the hearing.
The judge heard a recording of a Dec. 7 telephone conversation between Ferro and an acquaintance while Ferro was in the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island. In that conversation, a voice prosecutors say is Ferro's can be heard using racially offensive language to describe black people, and insisting he shouldn't be in jail.
Calvert testified that witnesses told her they heard Ferro allegedly use similar language at the scene of the stabbing.
The judge also heard two taped interviews between Ferro and Key West police in which he denied contributing to Butler's death. At one point, he claimed he was jumped by a group of men.
"I didn't touch anybody," Ferro was heard saying on one tape. In another, he said he was in the "wrong place at the wrong time." He said he was walking to get a taxi when the fight started among some of his friends and a group of locals.
Calvert testified that a 2-inch pocketknife found near the scene tested positive for blood, and the size of Butler's wounds were consistent with the size of the knife. Calvert said witnesses told her Ferro showed the same knife to some of his friends at a Key West hotel before the incident.
Ferro's attorneys, Ed O'Donnell Sr. and Ed O'Donnell Jr., are expected to cross-examine Calvert today. The detective is one of at least three state witnesses expected to testify in the hearing, which is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.
Butler was a 2005 Key West High School graduate and athletic star who was studying at Florida Keys Community College to be an electrician.