A Polk County jury acquitted a Lakeland man defended by J. Jervis Wise last month on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery in relation to the shooting death of an auto mechanic and alleged drug dealer in 2008.
Kaheem Shakel Bennett, who was fifteen at the time of the murder, was indicted on the charges in January of this year. Now 23, Bennett was tried on crimes related to the slaying of Ernest Allen, Jr. on December 29, 2008. Allen was killed in an apparent robbery at his home (which doubled as an auto shop and, from where Allen allegedly sold illegal drugs) in the North Lake Wire neighborhood of Lakeland. Another man, twenty-three year old Reeshemaha Antar Pearson, was arrested at the time for the murder as well. Twenty-one year old Sidney Lee Mells was arrested along with Bennett and Pearson for another murder at which authorities allege Bennett was present.
Despite not being officially classified as a cold case, it generated few leads as the months turned into years. However, in 2014 Lakeland PD established the Cold Case Unit to investigate and clear its over three dozen unsolved murders. Working on information obtained from Pearson, investigators developed a case against Bennett, which they presented to a Lakeland jury last month over the course of three days.
The state presented a witness who testified that Bennett was the mastermind behind the murder. However, Wise called the witness’s credibility into question, and did the same for other witnesses who alleged that Bennett admitted to involvement in the murder. Wise also presented the jury with witness testimony establishing an alibi for his client, telling the court that Bennett was at a nearby establishment at the time of Allen’s slaying. The jury deliberated for six hours before finding Bennett not guilty of both offenses.
J. Jervis Wise is an associate at the Law Offices of Bjorn E. Brunvand, and has been practicing criminal defense in federal and state courts for over a decade. Contact our offices today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area charges.