This is a discussion on Tapanese - "Neighbor guilty of manslaughter in '06 shooting" within the In the News: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly forums, part of the The Back Porch category; No surprise in the verdict; By LARRY KELLER Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Friday, May 16, 2008 WEST PALM BEACH — A jury on Friday ...
No surprise in the verdict;By LARRY KELLER
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 16, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH — A jury on Friday evening convicted Jose Tapanes of manslaughter, despite his contention he acted in self-defense in the predawn shotgunning of a neighbor in The Acreage.
Tapanes, 63, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison when he is sentenced June 9. The jury returned the verdict after six hours of deliberation, which followed a five-day trial.
Tapanes, seated at the defense table, shook his head after the verdict was read. His attorney, Public Defender Carey Haughwout, slipped an arm around his shoulders. Haughwout said she planned to appeal.
"I think the family is pleased with the verdict," Assistant State Attorney Andy Slater said.
Christopher Cote, 19, had moved in with his family across the street from Tapanes in September 2006 when the two argued as Cote walked his dog after 3 a.m. Cote then got in his Jeep, drove up Tapanes' driveway, got out and knocked on his door.
When Tapanes opened the door, he fired twice into Cote's gut with a pistol grip pump shotgun, killing him.
Cote's mother, Janet Murphy, wiped at tears after the verdict was read. She left the courtroom without a word.
Tapanes faced a first-degree murder charge, which could have sent him to prison for life. But he was convicted only of manslaughter with a firearm.
Neighbors said shortly after the shooting that Tapanes lived an eccentric life - he went through their trash religiously - and lived in a falling-down house with five dogs and several chickens. But he never seemed violent.
"The problem could have been resolved by a simple call to 911," Slater said in closing arguments. "This isn't a case of self-defense. It's a case of an angry man ... territorial in nature."
Slater didn't dispute that Cote was foolish for resuming the confrontation on Tapanes' property. "Because we do something foolish, doesn't mean we deserve to legally die for that," he said.
But Haughwout pointed out that Cote's family didn't call 911 either. Instead, they ran after him, futilely shouting for him to come back. Tapanes, she said, had good reason to fear for his life.
"He did what he had a right to do," she said. "He armed himself."
Slater and co-prosecutor Adam McMichael argued at trial that Tapanes' first shot knocked Cote down, but was not fatal. At that point, they said, Tapanes could have retreated inside his home, because any perceived danger had passed. Instead, he fired a blast to Cote's abdomen that severed his aorta.
Haughwout defended the second shot. "You don't stop until you know the threat is eliminated," she said.
Slater countered, "If you're afraid, you don't open the door."
"It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."
J. R. R. Tolkien
I agree until the neighbor brings the argument to his front door. He has no way of knowing his intentions. Maybe he didn't have to shoot the man, but I still would have felt he was within his rights. Of course I don't know all the details so it's hard to say.
*the story says the prosecution was saying Tapanes could have retreated. I didn't know FL had a duty to retreat.
**yep...3 a.m. I'm walking my dog and some 19 year old punk starts some crap...I go home and he follows me in his Jeep...he is taking his life into his own hands.
I have to agree with the verdict also. He did not call 911. Tapanes exited his home with the shotgun to confront Cotes who was unarmed. Not a sign of someone who was in fear of their life, but still within legal framework of FL Castle Doctrine. The prosecution was for the execution style second shot after Cotes was down. Below is the original post on this story.
Jury to decide if Tapanes fired in self defense
By LARRY KELLER
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 12, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH — Did Jose Tapanes fear for his life when he blasted his new neighbor, 19-year-old Christopher Cote, with a shotgun, killing him? Or did he needlessly provoke a volatile confrontation and kill an unarmed man?
For the second time in less than a year, a jury is being asked to decide if a man charged with first-degree murder acted in self defense under the so-called Castle Doctrine, that allows one to use deadly force rather than retreat from a perceived threat.
"Deadly force in self defense is not the case" with Tapanes, prosecutor Adam McMichael told jurors in opening statements on Monday.
Public Defender Carey Haughwout disagreed. Tapanes thought "Christopher Cote was there to hurt him," she said.
Cote and his family had just moved to The Acreage across the street from Tapanes hours earlier in September 2006 when the shooting occurred. Sometime after 3 a.m., Cote - who had been drinking beer - took his dog for a walk and had a verbal confrontation with Tapanes, 63. Tapanes contends that the young man threw a beer bottle at him.
In a cellphone message he left for his mother on their home answering machine, Cote can be heard asking Tapanes why he is pointing a gun at him. "I didn't point it at you," Tapanes replies.
By all accounts, Cote returned home angry, awakened his family and demanded they call police. They declined, not wanting to start off on the wrong foot in their new neighborhood.
Cote then drove away in his Jeep Cherokee, but made a U-turn and returned, pulling into Tapanes' driveway, headlights shining on his house, honking his horn.
McMichael said Cote then knocked on the door. Haughwout said he banged on it.
Whichever, Tapanes did not call 911. Instead, "He came out of that house and shot an unarmed teenager," McMichael said. The blast from a 12-gauge shotgun hit Cote a grazing blow to the chest and knocked him to the ground. Rather than retreat inside, Tapanes then fired a second shot from 3 feet away or less - "up close and personal" - ripping out Cote's intestines and severing his aorta, McMichael said.
Cote never tried to break into Tapanes' home and, since he was honking his horn, he did not show up unannounced, McMichael said.
Haughwout, however, said that Cote was demanding that Tapanes step outside and was pounding on and shaking the metal front door. He opened the door slightly to tell Cote to go home, saw him move in the dim light and fired in fear for his personal safety, she said.
The law requires a shooter acting in self defense to stop once the threat is over. Prosecutors say there was no threat once Cote fell to the ground from the first, non-fatal shot.
Aha more details. Sounds like he executed him. I would have been on his side up til the second shot. Just my opinion. Most 63 year old men don't stand much chance against some of today's 19 year olds.The law requires a shooter acting in self defense to stop once the threat is over. Prosecutors say there was no threat once Cote fell to the ground from the first, non-fatal shot.
I wouldn't stand around and get sucker punched before I decided to react on my own property, but he should have backed off and called the police...if not before the first shot then certainly after it.
sad that the poor kid had to die. Bad shoot good verdict.
I wouldn't call him a poor kid if he was drunk and throwing beer bottles at an old man then provoking him. Sounds like he was a Darwin candidate and got his award.
You read the part where the kid was drunk...throwing beer bottles at him...went home then came back to the man's house at 3am shining his car lights into his house and honking the horn. I expect if this happened to most folks on this forum you'd have a different view.
Yep, I agree, bad verdict except for the second shot, maybe. 63 yr old vs 19 yr old. The old guy, depending on health etc, could definitely fear for his life whether or not the 19-yr old is armed. Did he KNOW the kid was unarmed when followed home and harassed? Tough to say without being there. One shot I say positively Castle Doctrine, second shot, maybe a good verdict. Depends on how fast the shots were made. If it was bang-bang, then innocent. If they guy was down and not trying to pull anything, then the second shot was bad.
- How did the homeowner know who it was?
- If he felt threatened, then why did he open the door at 3am to an unknown person?
- What was the gist of the argument that justified lethal force?
A.O.J. Doesn't appear that mere knocking on a door constitutes Ability. Being on the other side of a locked door, it's hard to claim that a supposed attacker has the Opportunity to attack. And, without manifest intent or the other two factors (Ability, Opportunity), it's hard to claim true Jeopardy from the "attacker's" actions. Boldly opening the door and firing two shots at a person known to you has no solid pillars holding it up, other than one's word. Frankly, in the anti-gun environment we're faced with, that's a hand of cards I would prefer not to play.
Trading gumption for brains is usually a very bad choice. That appears to be the case in this instance.
Now, had he hunkered down in a room down the hallway in his home, awaited a violent break-in, then taken out whomever came down that hallway, then it would by an iron-clad case by comparison. Had he truly been worried about the prior argument (altercation?), he'd be on much firmer ground had he called 911 and lodged a call warning of the neighbor's disposition. Had he been truly worried about outcomes, he should not have opened that door. Sure, sure ... it's his home, his door, his porch, his right to open that door. But look where it got him. He's right. He's effectively dead right. Good for him. He wins, right?
A good lesson in what not to do.
I'm not saying that he didn't make a bad decision. The old man that is..., but if the young thug hadn't been on his property at 3 a.m. there wouldn't have been any problem. The old man wasn't out hunting him...
*there's the law...then there is what is right. I'd have stuck to my guns, but that's just me (on the jury that is).
**I still think he probably did the community a favor by getting rid of this aggressive punk.
In my opinion, JT had some degree of culpability when he went to and opened the door armed ready to confront CC.
I believe JT knew CC was the person outside calling his attention to continue their argument and instead of engaging him in conversation through the door and calling 911 to de escalate the situation, decided he would "protect" his domain/ego and end it with deadly force although non was reciprocated.
That's just my outsider's opinion, but I also feel that way too many heated arguments are ending up with unnecessary use of deadly force.
I really wish I could have been at this trial to hear what actually transpired and hear the arguments to the either side of the law.
I'm sorry but its never any good when someone has to die.
Even when a truely bad person dies, its not good, simply because they obviously did something/killed other people for it to come to that...
I would never say "the punk had it coming".
You never know the circumstances of their argument, as one person is dead. The teen could have been coming to apologize to the guy, or at least try to set the situation straight. I know its the wrong time of night, but if someone knocks on my door at 3am I might go yell "WHO IS IT?" then say "COME BACK TOMORROW".
I am NOT answering the door with a shotty, shooting once, walking up to a pleading, screaming, agonizingly in pain shot teenager, and putting one to his stomach to finish the deal.
This guy overreacted, and got a jail sentence for it. A lesson to us all.