Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Monday, May 9, 2011
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Fantasy Fest murder trial looms

The trial of a 24-year-old Hollywood man accused of stabbing Marques Butler to death during Fantasy Fest in 2009 is set to begin next month as defense lawyers continue to push prosecutors to release his taped jailhouse phone conversations.

Jury selection in the state's second-degree murder trial of Nicholas Christopher Ferro is scheduled to begin on June 13 before circuit Judge David Audlin.

Miami-based lawyer Ed O'Donnell Jr. and another defense lawyer are waiting for Miami-Dade prosecutors Breezye Telfair and Miesha Shonta Darrough to release Ferro's taped phone conversations from the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island, which could be instrumental at trial, O'Donnell said.

"The state has pulled every single tape and we're still attempting to collect that discovery," O'Donnell said. He declined to comment further on how important those tapes will be during trial.

Some of those taped phone conversations between Ferro and family members were played extensively during Ferro's failed bid to get released from jail during bond hearings in January 2010.

"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.

How important those tapes will be remains to be seen as O'Donnell declined to comment on defense strategy with the trial looming. Ferro pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and resisting arrest without violence in December 2009.

As of Friday, prosecutors had not presented a plea agreement, which indicates the matter will go to trial, O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell declined to comment on whether defense lawyers will attempt to move the trial out of Key West, but as of Friday no such formal motion had been made.

Attorneys from Miami-Dade are prosecuting the case after then-Gov. Charlie Crist found a potential conflict of interest in November 2009 with the Monroe County State Attorney's Office. Three women who work there either knew Butler or know witnesses to the Oct. 31, 2009, fight near Duval Street that led to Butler's death.

Miami-Dade state attorney spokesman Ed Griffith confirmed that prosecutors are preparing for a June 13 trial, but declined to comment if any plea agreement would be proffered.

Prosecutors allege that Ferro stabbed Butler during an early morning street fight in the 500 block of Caroline Street.

Butler was a 2005 Key West High School graduate and athletic star who was studying at Florida Keys Community College to be an electrician.

Ferro remains in jail under no bail.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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