An appeals court has upheld the conviction of a former Florida International University student who claimed self-defense in fatally stabbing an unarmed school football player during an on-campus brawl.
Jurors in September 2013 convicted Quentin Wyche of second-degree murder in the killing of Kendall Berry, a popular running back, at the university’s recreation center.
Berry’s death shocked the FIU campus, and prompted a scathing internal report blasting the school’s delay in notifying students about the killing. Berry, 22, led the team in touchdowns the season before his death, while Wyche was briefly a walk-on football player for the Panthers.
In March 2010, Wyche had smashed or threw a cookie in the face of Berry’s girlfriend. Later that day, several of his teammates — with Berry watching about 50 yards away — confronted Wyche and his friends outside the gym.
Scrums broke out in front of the rec center. At trial, jurors heard that Wyche ran away, but then reengaged, retrieving a pair of scissors from his backpack before stabbing Berry in the chest.
Wyche, now 27, also taunted Berry’s friends as the young man crumpled to the ground, mortally wounded.
For Miami-Dade prosecutors, the case was a thorny one because of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat in using deadly force to counter a threat of “great bodily harm” or death.
His defense lawyer insisted that Wyche used deadly force only when confronted by a group of muscle-bound football players bent on beating him up. The jury deliberated just one hour in convicting Wyche of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon.
A Miami-Dade judge later sentenced Wyche to 20.5 years in prison.
On Wednesday, a unanimous three-judge panel said there was “competent substantial evidence” for jurors to have concluded that Wyche “was the initial aggressor.”
The panel also concluded that Wyche’s “actions, coupled with his own words, clearly satisfied the element of second-degree murder, specifically that the defendant acted with ill will, hatred and an evil intent.”