There is an tragic road road case out of Florida where two middle aged men that led to a shooting. Robert Eric Doyle, 51, was arrested for the murder of Candelario Gonzalez, 44. What is different about this case if two fold. First, both cars were on the telephone with 911 during the chase and shooting — all of which was recorded. Second, the primary witnesses that could contradict both drivers are the respective wives of the drivers.
Doyle called 911 to tell the police that there was “some maniac” chasing him and that he had his gun “cocked and loaded.” Around the same time, the wife of Gonzalez called to say that her husband was following a man in the streets of Beverly Hill, Florida. Both stayed on the line. Both women showed far more judgment than their respective husbands.
Gonzalez’s wife can be heard begging him to go home. However, she said that her husband was following him to get his address (it is not clear why his license plate and make would not be enough). For his part, Doyle made repeated reference to his gun and his willingness to use it: “They’re following me to my house. I’ll be there in 20 seconds; the guns are already out.” When the cars stopped in front of Doyle’s house, the dispatcher could hear Doyle’s wife begging him not to shoot. Doyle shot Gonzalez and then reportedly held the Gonzalez family at gunpoint.
While Doyle has a concealed weapons permit, he has been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
We previously discussed the impact of Stand Your Ground laws in Florida as well as so called Castle Doctrine or Make My Day laws. The fact that Doyle would wait to confront the other driver outside of his house is an interesting element. It could be viewed as enhancing his defense that he was in fear for his life. Like the Zimmerman case (another second degree murder case), the belief that one’s life is in danger can prove a difficult standard for prosecutors to overcome.
The Castle Doctrine law in Florida presents a couple of tricky elements for both sides. If Doyle was hoping to have the encounter at his home for use of this defense, he would have to argue that the cars were technically within the gambit of law, i.e., part of his domicile. That has been done in other cases where a driveway was treated as part of a home. He would also have to show that he believed Gonzalez was in the process of forcibly entering his home or trying to pull Doyle out of his home. The law also extends to an effort to enter a vehicle. Below is the standard. It is important to remember that Doyle can simple argue self-defense or stand your ground without the use of the Castle Doctrine.
Regardless of the defense, the chief witness for the prosecution will be Doyle’s own wife or at least her recorded voice begging him not to shoot Gonzalez. She appears not to have been in fear of her life but rather in fear of the actions of her own husband. That could be the key to the case since the family of Gonzalez is likely to be heavily in favor of the prosecution’s theory. There is a spousal privilege in Florida though that would not stop the use of the 911 tape. Here is the spousal privilege provision:
90.504 Husband-wife privilege.—
(1) A spouse has a privilege during and after the marital relationship to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, communications which were intended to be made in confidence between the spouses while they were husband and wife.
(2) The privilege may be claimed by either spouse or by the guardian or conservator of a spouse. The authority of a spouse, or guardian or conservator of a spouse, to claim the privilege is presumed in the absence of contrary evidence.
(3) There is no privilege under this section:
(a) In a proceeding brought by or on behalf of one spouse against the other spouse.
(b) In a criminal proceeding in which one spouse is charged with a crime committed at any time against the person or property of the other spouse, or the person or property of a child of either.
(c) In a criminal proceeding in which the communication is offered in evidence by a defendant-spouse who is one of the spouses between whom the communication was made.
Absent the wife’s voice, a stronger defense case could be built on the extraordinary act of Gonzalez following Doyle for so long. That would be viewed as threatening by many and his getting out of his car and approaching Doyle could be used by the defense to support a claim of reasonable fear. But then there is that voice of Doyle’s wife in the background. She is not asking Gonzalez not to harm her husband but asking her husband not to kill Gonzalez.
Chapter 776: JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE
776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—
(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened; or
(c) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal activity; or
(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using or threatening to use force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
(3) A person who is attacked in his or her dwelling, residence, or vehicle has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to use force, including deadly force, if he or she uses or threatens to use force in accordance with s. 776.012(1) or (2) or s. 776.031(1) or (2).
(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
(5) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
(b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
(c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.
History.—s. 1, ch. 2005-27; s. 4, ch. 2014-195.