Defense attorneys in the Nicholas Ferro murder trial allege homicide victim Marques Butler had a history of violence, and say jurors ought to know that when they weigh whether Ferro was acting in self-defense when he fatally stabbed Butler in October 2009.
Those attorneys filed motions last week asking circuit Judge Luis Garcia to allow Butler's criminal record -- as well as those of two prosecution witnesses who were at the scene that night -- to be introduced as evidence in Ferro's Nov. 5 trial.
The defense contends the records support its argument that Ferro, of Hollywood, Fla., and his friends were attacked by Butler's friends, and that Ferro was acting in self-defense when Butler was stabbed, according to court documents.
Ferro and a group of his friends from Broward County were in Key West for Fantasy Fest when the stabbing occurred.
This will be the second trial for Ferro, who is charged with second-degree murder. His first trial ended with a hung jury in March in Key West. The retrial is scheduled to be heard in Plantation Key. Garcia granted Ferro bail of $750,000 in July.
In Ferro's first trial, J.C. Edwards testified for the prosecution, telling jurors the 4 a.m. fight on Caroline Street started when Patrick Stickney and Ferro's friend, Jorge Averoff, bumped shoulders. That bump reportedly led to a brawl in which Butler was stabbed. Butler later died at Lower Keys Medical Center.
Defense lawyers argued during the first trial that Ferro was trying to rescue his friend Averoff from an angry mob when Butler struck Ferro from behind, causing Ferro to hold up a pocketknife in self-defense -- the weapon they concede killed Butler.
Defense attorney Carlos Gonzalez of Miami argues in last week's motions that Butler had a history of violence. He cites a 2007 incident on Lower Duval Street in which Butler jumped on a police officer's back as the officer tried to break up a fight between two groups. Butler struck two officers during the incident.
Butler was convicted of resisting arrest, placed on probation and paid at least $190 in fines, according to court records.
The defense also argues that Edwards, the prosecution witness who was Butler's friend, has a criminal history relevant to the case. Attorneys cite an October 2007 arrest for aggravated battery in connection with an Old Town assault. However, charges in that case eventually were dropped.
Defense motions also cite the record of Stickney, a friend of Butler who was involved in the melee that led to Butler's death. Stickney is awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery and battery in connection with a 2011 case.
"We're just citing the most specific examples relevant to this case, but clearly this is not new behavior for any of these guys," said Ferro's trial attorney, Ed O'Donnell Jr.
Defense attorneys are requesting a change of venue, asking that the trial be moved to Miami. The trial already was moved from Key West to Plantation Key.
Miami-Dade County prosecutors Breezye Telfair and Miesha Darrough were appointed to try the case by former Gov. Charlie Crist because of a potential conflict of interest with the Monroe County State Attorney's Office. Three employees in that office either knew Butler or were witnesses in the case.
Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office spokesman Ed Griffith said the office would not comment on pending cases.