Florida State Professor Dan Markel Shot At Home [UPDATED]

1405809806000-Dan-MarkelFlorida State law professor and leading blogger legal Dan Markel died on Friday from an apparent gunshot wound at his home. Markel, 41, was a popular professor at Florida State University College of Law and the founder of Prawfsblawg, a popular legal blog. All such deaths without witnesses (called “unattended incidents”) are investigated as possible homicides. UPDATE: The police are saying that Markel was “targeted’ and murdered.

Markel was found dead after a neighbor called police about hearing a “loud bang.” Markel left behind two young sons, ages 3 and 5, and was actively involved in his synagogue, Congregation Shomrei Torah. He was going through a divorce from his wife. He was known to be someone devoted to his children and to his academic work.

There have been a series of burglaries in the area and Markel’s own home was burglarized a few years ago. One blogger has stated that he believes that Markel that was the victim of a violent burglary but later withdrew that statement.

Markel had a brilliant career. He is the author of the book Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties. He was raised in Toronto and graduated from Harvard College in 1995 and later received his masters from the University of Cambridge before graduating from Harvard Law School in 2001.

It is a terrible loss for family, the Florida State community, and academia. He was a prolific and brilliant academic who left his mark on this Earth with his writings and friendships. I did not know Dan but the testimonials about his life reveal a man with a wide network of friends and fans. He clearly lived his life to the fullest, albeit a life cut short on Friday.

49 thoughts on “Florida State Professor Dan Markel Shot At Home [UPDATED]

  1. May his family, friends, colleagues and community find peace during this horrific tragedy. RIP Dan…

  2. I pray the truth is found and that his loved ones can come to terms w/ the truth. Two boys w/o a dad. Male family and friends need to step up for these boys.

  3. 9-11 victims jumped because what was behind them was worse than what was out front. Suicide, like murder itself, has always perplexed me, unable to understand how anyone can take life at all. I recall the suicide of a student, whose father badgered him with an iron fist, controlling every facet of his life including his major. He must have felt like a caged animal because his suicide note read: “I’ll show you.”

    When it comes to spousal related suicide, I’m even more perplexed. When we suffer the loss of a loved one, such as a parent, for example, we do not contemplate suicide. Yet when someone looses a spouse through divorce, suicide seems all too common. I always wonder, would the victim commit suicide if s/he had lost the spouse not through divorce but through, say, a car accident? The different perhaps lies with the emotion of shame. Milan Kundera: “The basis of shame is not some personal mistake of ours, but that this humiliation is seen by everyone.” What is unusual about the marriage bond in spousal suicides? Does the bond have bases in something other than love, such as possession, status, codependency, attainment, or is the loss of true love itself felt as betrayal so painful, as with a burning building, that suicide is a rational option?

  4. I think I will wait for more information before making a judgment. My heart goes out to his children.

  5. “My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.” -Chief Michael DeLeo

    News Release: Tallahassee Police Department
    July 21, 2014 – 11am


    Chief Michael DeLeo said “TPD will work tirelessly to follow up on all leads and evidence in this case and our thoughts and prayers are with the Markel family as they endure this terrible tragedy. My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.”


    “My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.” -Chief Michael DeLeo

  6. Tonya,

    Police Departments have been known to screw up a death investigation. Just ask Rubin, the Hurricane, Carter!

  7. I hired a retired state homicide detective to work for my PI agency. His specialty was suicide. Death investigations consider ALL possibilities. Suicides have nuances but there is one primal consideration. The vast majority of people do not have the ability to overcome that inherent will to live w/o help. The help is in the form of drugs and/or alcohol. Over 90% of suicide toxicology show either or both in the system. If not, it is an automatic red flag. It means there is only a 10% chance it was suicide. That’s one of the first things a death investigator is looking for.

  8. Again:

    “My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.” -Chief Michael DeLeo

    News Release: Tallahassee Police Department
    July 21, 2014 – 11am


    Chief Michael DeLeo said “TPD will work tirelessly to follow up on all leads and evidence in this case and our thoughts and prayers are with the Markel family as they endure this terrible tragedy. My investigators will do everything they can to see those responsible for this murder are brought to justice.”

  9. “Markel died Saturday morning, a day after being discovered shot in the back…” -JTA



    (JTA) — Dan Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, died after being shot in his home.

    Markel died Saturday morning, a day after being discovered shot in the back in his home and taken to the hospital, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. He was 41.

  10. An aside, related to an earlier comment @ 9:18




    Downey said family researchers need to distinguish between family characteristics that affect children’s development and those characteristics that do not.

    “People have assumed that the sex of the parent has a major effect on children’s development, but we found that isn’t the case,” he said. “Researchers need to focus on other factors, such as family resources, which seem to have a real impact.”

    I’m not interested in a “discussion” on this topic. The topic at hand is Professor Dan Markel’s murder.

  11. Not sure if Markel had a home security system, with cameras, especially after having his home burglarized. If this is a residential area,
    other home owners may have security cameras pointing from door to street. And any mounted street traffic cameras would have got something.
    I would expect folks working in the law business to have better than average security systems.

  12. Police made a statement. Merkel was hot in the back. It was not a random act or as the result of a burglary. They are calling it a “targeted murder.”

  13. From the links supplied hours ago:

    “The initial investigation has provided no indication that this case is connected to a burglary or robbery and investigators are assuring residents there is no evidence this was a random act. Neighborhood residents should continue to be vigilant but it appears at this time that Mr. Markel was the intended victim in this incident.”


    And from JTA, again… hours ago:


    Two ears, two eyes and one mouth… for a reason…

  14. Year not given. From Forbes “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” Tallahassee, Fla.

    Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, leads the state in crime with 775 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Its location on Interstate 10 makes it an attractive city for drug runners who bring
    contraband north from Miami and the surrounding area. The Tallahassee Police Department has stressed the need to boost funds to interdict drugs moving north, and a high rate
    of aggravated assaults seems to accompany the drug trafficking, according to Stults. Poverty also plays a role. “At the city level, poverty is one of the strongest predictors of crime rate,
    and there are definitely large pockets of poverty in Tallahassee – like most cities of its size, it is also segregated, and that contributes to higher crime rates in some areas,”.

  15. There is no confirmed, police statement stating that Prof. Markel was shot in the back. None.

    According to the Tallahassee Democrat, TPD begins working all deaths without witnesses as if they are a homicide until evidence proves otherwise.

    After Neighbors heard the shot, not only did someone immediately notify the police, but they also didn’t see or hear anyone fleeing the scene.

    Police have no suspect, no witness, and are keeping hush, hush about where the gun shot wound entered and exited Pro. Markel’s body. No mentioning of the specific type of weapon or if Prof. Markel owned a similar weapon.

    You don’t need 3 days to find out all this info, but since they are treating this as a homicide, then they are allowed to keep this info sealed until a certain time.

  16. Most people do not turn their back on someone they see as a threat. If he opened the door I wonder if he knew the person and did not suspect anything amiss. Just guessing though.

  17. Hmmm. How contentious was the divorce? Did he recently flunk a psycho? Has he served as an expert witness, or worked on a major money case? Has he gotten a new psycho girl friend? Or a new girl friend with a psycho boy friend? Those areas are where I would start.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  18. Northway said information about a weapon, Markel’s activities on Friday and how many times he may have been shot — a schedule for an autopsy or when it might be completed were also unavailable — constituted intimate details of the crime that couldn’t be released without undermining the investigation.” – from the “Tallahassee Democrat”

    From the previous link (tallahassee dot com):

    “Officer David Northway, TPD spokesman, asked community members Monday to put themselves in the position of Markel’s family.

    “You would want us to take every step that we need to to make sure that we bring this case to justice and not rush and make rash decisions,” he said. “We want to make sure that all of the evidence that we collect and all the people that we interview are thorough and to the very end. That’s what we would ask our neighborhood residents to understand.”

    Investigators seek information on the case, particularly from witnesses in the 2100 block of Trescott Drive between 10 a.m. and noon on Friday. Northway says they want to hear from everyone, including delivery drivers, visitors to the neighborhood and pedestrians.

    TPD asks that people call in to a tip line created specifically for the Markel case. Callers can leave a voicemail with their information.

    The number is 891-4462.

    Northway provided no more information about whether police have a suspect. On Saturday, TPD officials said they had no suspects. Northway also could not say whether a weapon was found at the scene or if there were any indications Markel knew his assailant.

    Northway said information about a weapon, Markel’s activities on Friday and how many times he may have been shot — a schedule for an autopsy or when it might be completed were also unavailable — constituted intimate details of the crime that couldn’t be released without undermining the investigation.”

  19. Thanks for keeping us updated on the case Anonymous. This case is becoming more bizarre. How do the following answers (to these questions) jeopardizes a prosecutor’s case?

    Why not tell us (general public) what part of Prof. Markel was shot? If his body was inside his home or backyard? Specific type of murder weapon? Number of times he was shot? If Prof. Markel carried a similar (or the same) weapon? Year, make, and model of vehicle in the photo? If illegal drugs were found in the home?

    Is the police department fabricating evidence (has tainted the crime scene), knowing that a good defense attorney would have a field day with this?

    It seems like they are trying to cover up something that transpired in Prof. Markel’s home and/or his life?

    The first 48-72 hours is the making or breaking points of solving any murder, before our beloved police department starts to arrest the neighbor’s dog for a murder that was actually a suicide.

  20. http://www.wctv.tv/news/bigstories/headlines/BREAKING-Police-Investigate-Shooting-on-Trescott-Dr-267684731.html

    News Release: Tallahassee Police Department
    July 25, 2014 – 1:45pm

    Due to recent updates of specific information involving the death of Mr. Markel, TPD investigators have released portions of the original report in the case. A PDF copy of the document is attached.

    Chief Michael J. DeLeo is asking for the communities continued support as the investigation moves forward. “Our investigators are using all resources available to them and are continuing to explore all of the tips that we have received. I want to personally thank everyone for the tips we have received in this case and ask you to keep the Markel family in your thoughts and prayers” said Chief DeLeo.

    If a community member has any information about this case, please call the dedicated “Tip Line” at (850) 891-4462. You may also choose to report any information to CrimeStoppers at (850) 574-TIPS. All information is confidential and the reward for any information leading to an arrest in this case is $3000.00

    (The article includes other information, as well.)

  21. http://abovethelaw.com/2014/07/updates-on-the-investigation-into-the-killing-of-professor-dan-markel/

    “A Florida State University criminal law professor was pulling into his driveway and talking on his cell phone when he was fatally shot, ABC News has learned exclusively…. The killer was waiting for Markel outside his home in Tallahassee’s Betton Hills section, a source told ABC News, and followed Markel into the garage, shooting him in the side of the head through the window of his car. The bullet entered just beneath Markel’s jawline.

    “Markel was alive when cops arrived, with the keys in the ignition of his car, before being pronounced dead at the hospital hours later, police said. Markel was apparently on the phone at the time of the shooting, remarking to the person on the phone that someone was in the driveway, ABC News has learned.”

  22. What does the caller know? Did Professor Markel recognize the car and or driver? Did caller hear ….anything (words exchanged …gunfire)? ***Did they call 911 for Dan?*** Do we presume gunman was not wearing gloves? Nonprofessional or (possibly) unplanned shooting? [easier to just open door vs smash window…not to mention the “car was in driveway”…allegedly] Could the neighbor have smashed window (unlock car) trying to help Dan? Sounds planned (for something) …but, not professional (like a “hit” from a contract killing). If a “hit” …very sloppy.

  23. http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/breaking/2014/07/31/tpd-releases-911-call-in-dan-markel-case/13413325/

    “An error by dispatchers contributed to a slower response time to Dan Markel’s Betton Hills home after he was shot July 18.

    An ambulance arrived at Markel’s Trescott Drive home 19 minutes after the 911 call. Tallahassee police were first on the scene 15 minutes after the initial report.

    A redacted version of the 911 call was made available by the Tallahassee Police Department Thursday. The shooting death of Markel, a prominent Florida State law professor, is being investigated as a homicide. Police have not identified any suspects in the case.

    While on the phone, the caller pressed emergency dispatchers to quickly send help.

    “You need to send an ambulance in a hurry,” the caller said at about 11 a.m. that day. “He’s still alive, he’s still moving.”

    Tallahassee-Leon County Consolidated Dispatch Center Director Timothy Lee said the dispatcher that took the call from Markel’s neighbor classified the incident as a priority three instead of a more urgent priority one incident.”

  24. Three weeks into the death (or suicide) of Prof. Markel, and law enforcement do not have any suspects or made any arrests?

    Why not tell us a few details? For example, Did Prof. Markel own a similar weapon that was used in his death? How many people (like the neighbor who ‘found’ Prof. Markel in his car) are willing to go outside after hearing a gun shot (in my neighborhood, you stay away from the windows and immediately contact the police)? Any suicide notes, written or on his computer/emails?

    A college professor is ‘murdered’ at his home, and there are no suspects or witnesses?

    Three weeks later, and law enforcement is still keeping info from the public?

    Something is not adding up…….will law enforcement keep the autopsy info from the public, as well?

    Another question: he was ‘murdered’ on a Friday morning, and the crime scene unit removed the crime scene tape from his home early Sunday morning? Kinda quick for a ‘murder’ scene (this question was posited by another news reporter but TPD refused to comment on the reporter’s question/concern)?

  25. RWL

    On an active investigation it is usually not the case where the police will release the names of suspects unless there is a reason for it that is likely to result in their apprehension. When evidence is still being gathered or there is a flight risk they generally do not.

    Also, information that ordinarily would be released by a public disclosure request is not subject to release as long as there is an investigation in progress. It is not, depending on the state, available until the person is formally charged and/or is also discoverable by the defendant.

    Also as to the time the police had the scene, that amount of time is not out of the ordinary. The purpose of the crime scene investigation is to gather evidence. When all expected evidence is collected, the scene is most often released. The police cannot hold a scene such as a residence indefinitely because it deprives an owner of the use of the scene and likely will be scrutinized by the court that issued any applicable search warrant.

    Generally the police will make as much effort as they can to remove all the evidence at once. Once they leave the scene the evidence becomes increasingly and legally “spoiled” because the value can be compromised by others having access to such evidence. It then it becomes unreliable and could be considered tampered. This does not mean that it cannot be retrieved and entered as evidence but these evidence introductions into trial is likely to be more difficult due to defense objections.

    Also sometimes homicide investigations can last even years, though most go cold after six months. Also, there are times where a suspect is known but there is insufficient evidence to either charge or obtain a conviction. That is usually the reason they wait until convincing evidence is gathered.

    Moreover, if the prosecution presents a case for trial where the evidence is weak a judge or jury could find the defendant not guilty and the state is barred by double-jeopardy from a subsequent criminal trial of the same crimes.

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  27. Caston,

    I find your post inappropriate and disrespectful not only to those of us who are grieving this horrendous event but to Professor Markel’s family, friends and colleagues.

  28. AY,

    The police are chasing the wind. How many law professors are ‘murder’ in their homes, at 10 am, with no witnesses or suspects?

    I think the TPD need to start looking at suicide as a possibility?

  29. Shannon,

    The TPD has not confirmed which part of Mr. Markel heads was shot.

    The TPD will not confirm if Mr. Markel owns a similar weapon.

    The TPD and the University will not confirm why Mr. Markel was home at 10am, instead of being at work.

    The University will not confirm if Mr. Markel was (or has been) under going mental stress evaluation (i.e. be being treated for depression) due to his divorce, unable to balance work/life issues, on sabbatical, or leave to resolve issues circumnavigating his divorce?

    The TPD has not confirmed that they have 100% ruled out death by suicide.

    The TPD has not confirmed that they have any leads or suspects.

    I will ask the question, again: How many law professors are ‘murdered’ at 10am, in their homes, in a decent neighborhood, with no leads, no suspects, or witnesses, and the police department refuses to give info? The neighbor, who called 911 and spoke to the dispatcher, wasn’t afraid to go towards the gunshot ‘noise’? Why? The autopsy should be completed by the end of this week? Will this info be withheld?

    1 month…..and counting…..

    Is being a law professor a dangerous career path?

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