Seventeen-year-old Gerald Terrell Jones of Brandon was acquitted of attempted second-degree murder by a Hillsborough County jury earlier this month. Jones previously admitted to shooting his drug dealer in the face after a drug deal went bad. The trial judge had previously ruled that Jones wasn’t protected by Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
At trial, the jury heard testimony from the victim/drug dealer Daniel Drake as well as other witnesses who had smoked substantial amounts of marijuana at the time of the shooting. Both Jones and Drake claimed the other was trying to rob him. Neither admitted ownership of the gun used in the shooting.
According to law enforcement, Drake and Jones had been conducting a drug deal when the two began to fight. They alleged that Jones pulled out a pistol and threatened to kill Drake. Deputies claimed that Jones then opened Drake’s car, removed the marijuana and attempted to leave. When Drake went after him, Jones allegedly shot at him several times.
Drake said he brought a half-pound of “hydro” marijuana to a yard on Mohrlake Drive in Brandon, intending to make a sale to Jones. Drake and Jones got into a car to make the transaction. Each claims the other tried to rob him in the car. Drake said Jones showed him a wad of cash, which Drake told him he admired, but then Jones displayed a gun and asked, “How do you like this?”
Jones said he wasn’t carrying a gun. He said Drake pulled the gun, but he was able to wrestle it away from the dealer. Then both got out of the car, and they scuffled some more. Drake’s partner said he managed to get the gun away from Jones but, for some reason, gave the gun back to him.
Jones said he took off running with the gun. Drake said Jones grabbed the marijuana out of the car first. They fought some more. Jones said he was losing and slipping into unconsciousness. “I was in fear for my life. I closed my eyes and shot.”
The jury clearly believed that these circumstances did not meet the necessary elements for conviction of attempted murder. With unreliable witnesses and confusing versions of the facts of the case, it is not hard to understand why they returned the not guilty verdict.