Florida Keys News
Friday, February 7, 2014
Judge: No new trial in 2009 Fantasy Fest murder
Sentencing today for Nicholas Ferro; life in prison likely

A Broward County man convicted of stabbing Key West native Marques Butler to death during a 2009 Fantasy Fest street fight will not receive a new trial, a judge ruled after hearing arguments Thursday at the Plantation Key courthouse.

Nicholas Christopher Ferro, 27, is expected to be sentenced today before circuit Judge Luis Garcia.

Ferro and Butler were involved in a 4 a.m. scuffle between youths from both Key West and Hollywood. The fight occurred in Old Town Key West after the city's annual parade.

Ferro's lawyers claim he was acting in self defense in the face of an angry crowd that attacked him when he pulled out a small pocketknife and stabbed Butler in the stomach area.

A Plantation Key jury on Sept. 27 convicted Ferro of second-degree murder. Ferro, who lives in Hollywood, will likely be sentenced to life in state prison today after Ferro's defense attorneys failed to convince Garcia that alleged errors made prosecutors warrant a retrial.

Garcia reviewed arguments of both the defense and prosecutor for about 15 minutes Thursday before coming back to the courtroom and rejecting most of the points raised by the defense. In the brief ruling, Garcia said the "most troubling" item raised by the defense was a remark made by a prosecutor during closing arguments in which she claimed they spoke for the victim.

But Garica added that he admonished the attorney and gave the jury instructions to disregard the statement, and that the issue didn't call for a new trial.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, the prosecutors handling the case, have declined to comment on pending matters before the court.

A six-person jury convicted Ferro after deliberating for 90 minutes. Ferro's first trial in March 2012 in Key West ended with a hung jury.

Defense attorney Carlos Gonzalez of Miami argued that Ferro should receive a third trial on several key points, but the central was this was legally not a second-degree murder case.

He made that argument based on the amount of time that Ferro and Butler knew each other, which was several minutes at most. Defense lawyers said that point is essential as per Florida's murder laws, but Garcia disagreed.

"The second-degree murder charge requires familiarity," Garcia said in his ruling, adding that there is no time requirement.

Among the other things that Gonzalez also argued:

• "Prejudicial" statements made by the state's first witness, Key West police Lt. David Smith, who testified that members of Ferro's group "may have been involved in some form of illegal gang activity" and that Ferro had been tried before.

• The lawyers also allege the jury should not have heard a doctor's testimony that Butler, 23, said he had been stabbed and didn't know why, because such testimony is hearsay, according to the defense motion.

• Defense attorneys also took issue with Ferro showing jurors the extensive tattoo on his back as the identity of Ferro, and the fact that he stabbed Butler was never in question.

• The defense further alleges that Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Breezye Telfair should not have told jurors that "his lawyers helped him concoct his defense of self defense."

• Lastly, the lawyers allege that one juror was not qualified to sit on the jury because he lived in Miami-Dade County and not Monroe County. The juror in question works in Miami, homesteads a property in Miami, is registered to vote in Miami, and recently voted in Miami-Dade County elections.

On each point, Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Derek Ko told Garcia that he had either already ruled on such matters during the trial, or if there was an error made, the court corrected it and none of the points -- either individually or collectively -- warranted a new trial.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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