Jury selection began on Tuesday in the retrial of a St. Petersburg man whose original first-degree murder trial in 2015 ended in a hung jury.
Pinellas county prosecutors say that Oscar Freemond Fowler fired more than twenty rounds into the body of Naykee Bostic in late July 2013. According to a witness for the state, Fowler believed that Bostic had been responsible for a burglary at his residence, and the murder they say he committed was street justice.
Investigators say they found Bostic’s cellphone beneath his body and, using data harvested from nearby cell towers, believe that Fowler was in the vicinity of Bostic at the time of his death. However, Fowler’s attorneys contest the evidence, saying that the phone was stolen prior to the murder.
In addition, two witnesses in the original trial who were called to testify regarding incriminating conversations they say they had with Fowler have credibility issues, according to his attorneys. Both men were in jail awaiting trial on federal felony charges.
Fowler’s attorney attacks the state’s case as being composed entirely of highly circumstantial evidence – in addition to questionable cell phone data and witnesses with credibility problems, they point out the fact that no physical evidence ties him to the murder, and the murder weapon has never been discovered by investigators.
Jurors in the original trial cite several factors in their failure to reach a verdict. Despite the fact that most were leaning toward a guilty verdict, many cited the circumstantial nature of the evidence as problematic. Additionally, some jurors balked at voting in favor of a conviction due to the fact that the state was seeking the death penalty. That will not be an issue during the new trial, however, as the prosecution is not asking the court to impose capital punishment upon a guilty verdict in this trial.
Fowler, who is now 41, has been in Pinellas County Jail since July 2014 awaiting a verdict. In addition to the first-degree murder charge in question, he is also facing charges of fleeing or eluding, misdemeanor possession of cannabis, and battery in prison. He is also being held for US Marshals for unspecified reasons.