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Polk County Inmate Sentenced to Life in Jailer's Slaying

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A man convicted in 2015 for the death of a Polk County detention deputy was given a life sentence Wednesday.

Terrence Jerome Barnett was sentenced to life in prison upon the recommendation of a Polk County jury. The jury voted 7-5 in favor of a death sentence, but, due to a decision last year by the United States Supreme Court that non-unanimous recommendations of death are unconstitutional, prosecutors withdrew the request in favor of life in prison.

The 35-year-old Barnett was convicted of killing Sgt. Ronnie Brown during an altercation at the Polk County Jail in 2009. Brown was being held at the jail as he was being transferred to Highlands County to stand trial for an unrelated murder. According to witnesses, Brown was among the eight deputies attempting to restrain Barnett after they say he broke a sprinkler head in his cell, causing it to be inundated.

Deputies say that Barnett, who stands 6'5" and weighs 240 lbs. according to FDC records, pushed Brown into a wall. Brown ended up on the floor and was evacuated from the cell before deputies succeeded in restraining Barnett. Brown was treated and released, but returned to the hospital the next day with severe pain in his back. He underwent surgery on what was ultimately discovered to be a fractured vertebrae, but succumbed to a blood clot during his recovery.

Barnett was ultimately convicted of the murder for which he was being held at the time of Brown's death, and was given a thirty-year sentence. Prison records indicate that he was subsequently convicted of battery by a detainee for another altercation in 2009. Prior to his murder conviction he served five years in prison for armed robbery and was released from custody in February 2007.

Barnett's sentence will begin in 2040 at the expiration of the thirty-year sentence he is currently serving.

The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.

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  • National association of criminal defense lawyers
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  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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