Lawrence Dickey of Plant City was convicted earlier this week of second-degree murder for fatally clubbing his wife Beatrice with a bat in 2011.
A Hillsborough County jury deliberated six hours before rejecting the prosecution’s argument that Dickey committed first-degree premeditated murder when he drunkenly attacked his wife. A conviction of first-degree murder would have carried an automatic sentence of life in prison.
Dickey will be sentenced on January 25th and still faces a potential life term. The lesser conviction of second-degree murder carries a penalty that ranges from 22 years to life.
The jury heard testimony from three children in the blended Dickey family, including Beatrice Dickey’s teenaged son and Lawrence Dickey’s two teenagers.
One of the children testified that Lawrence Dickey told him moments before the attack that the boy’s biological mother would take care of him in the future. “Dickey was saying goodbye to his son,” Assistant State Attorney Ronald Gale told jurors in his closing argument, alleging proof of premeditation.
Dickey himself testified that he remembered nothing, that he consumed 11 beers and two shots of tequila at a concert earlier that night. He was allegedly covered in mud and had lost his shoes at the concert. He said he couldn’t remember talking to the teenager nor could he remember getting a bat from the garage and striking his wife three times in the head as she lay in bed. Her skull was fractured and her brain was lacerated.
Dickey later turned himself in at a Plant City police substation, wearing only gym shorts. He told an officer, “Lock me up. I just beat my wife with a bat and she’s hurt real bad.”
Dickey’s defense attorney told the jury the beating was “a random act by a guy who probably was in the middle of a blackout” and that there was no evidence of premeditation.
Drunkenness is not a legal defense for murder but the jury clearly agreed with the defense that the facts did not add up to first-degree murder.