A Florida Keys jury deliberated just under two hours Friday before finding a Hollywood man guilty of second-degree murder in a 2009 Fantasy Fest stabbing case.
Nicholas Ferro, 26, was tried for the second time after a Key West trial last March ended in a hung jury.
He was accused of murdering Marquese Butler during the early morning hours of Halloween 2009, following a tense confrontation on the street.
Ferro pleaded not guilty and says he stabbed Butler on Oct. 31, 2009, in self-defense while trying to save his friend from a group beating at the hands of Butler and Butlers Key West friends.
Deliberations began around 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, and the jury came back an hour and 25 minutes later. Sentencing in front of Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia is Dec. 2 at 9 a.m.
Ferro faces up to life in prison.
During closing arguments Friday, defense attorneys Edward ODonnell and Edward ODonnell IV told jurors that Ferro made a split-second decision to jump in the middle of a savage, angry, nasty mob to save the life of his friend, Jorge Averoff.
Ferro, Averoff and several friends were partying in Key West for the annual Fantasy Fest celebration.
Averoff was getting pummeled so badly on Caroline Street at around 4 a.m. that day, ODonnell said, that Averoffs other friends Seth Denny and Rolando Reyes thought about helping him but felt they had no choice but to run to Duval Street to get help from Key West police officers. Averoff and Reyes testified Thursday that they feared for their lives.
The beating only stopped when Ferro attempted to pull Averoff out of the maelstrom, according to the defense. But when he did, ODonnell IV said, Butler punched him in the back of the head, knocking him to his knees.
That is when Ferro unfolded his pocket knife, with a 2 1/2-inch blade, and stabbed Butler. Defense attorneys say Ferro saved Averoffs life.
The senior ODonnell said the Key West group repeatedly yelled kill him, kill him, kill him as they kicked and punched Averoff. If the group had a cheer, ODonnell said, it would be 10, 15, 20-to-one, thats what we call Key West fun.
But prosecutors say Ferro had no reason to stab Butler, and that Averoff was only fighting one man, James J.C. Edwards. Assistant State Attorney Breezye Telfair said Butler was trying to calm down Ferro, who was acting erratically as they both watched the fight between Averoff and Edwards.
Ferro, Telfair said, then walked by Butler, and as he did, he quickly jabbed him in abdomen with his knife and moved on. Butler died later that morning during emergency surgery in the Lower Keys Medical Center.
[Butler said] Hey man, chill out, and the next thing you have someone stab you in the stomach and you look down and fat is hanging out, and you dont know why, Telfair told jurors.
Butler had internal wounds to his stomach and pancreas, surgeon Rhoda Smith testified earlier this week. According to Telfair, after stabbing Butler, Ferro yelled to his friends, Watch the guy in the yellow shirt [Butler]. Hes going to fall. Hes going to fall hard.
That account was from the testimony of John Jackson, a witness who lives in Key West and knows some of Butlers friends, but says he is not close to them and was not with them that day.
But ODonnell said Jackson is not a reliable witness. Jackson also testified that he has some medical training, but did not attempt to render aid to Butler when he saw him lying on the street because he was afraid he might get hit in the back of the head by Butlers friends. This, ODonnell said, shows Jackson saw Butler hit Ferro and feared the same would happen to him.
No one else heard that, ODonnell said. Thats said by the same person who said I didnt want to get hit in the back of the head.