Frantzy Jean-Marie, a suspected gang member convicted last month of killing a confidential informant and his girlfriend 15 years ago, had his life spared Tuesday, but will spend the rest of it prison.
The same jury that convicted Jean-Marie, 35, of two counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and conspiracy and racketeering last month, spent just over an hour deliberating life or death for the 35-year-old who prosecutors say belonged to a violent and murderous street gang known as the Terrorist Boyz.
The 12-member jury spared Jean-Marie’s life after reaching the conclusion after his four-month trial that ended in June, that he did not pull the trigger - but was guilty of the murder of Armstrong Riviere and his girlfriend Stephanie Adams at a Northwest Miami-Dade apartment complex in March of 2003. During the same trial, Jean-Marie was acquitted of the murders of two men who were shot to death as they left Jumbo’s Restaurant in October 2002.
Prosecutors argued that the Terrorist Boyz had discovered Riviere was working with federal law enforcement to shut down the gang’s activities and had marked him for death. Florida law allows for a first-degree murder conviction if the defendant didn’t pull the trigger, but took part in a crime that led to a murder.
“It’s really a hollow victory. But the object was to keep the guy off Death Row,” said Jean-Marie’s defense attorney Jimmy Della Fera. “What do you say to the man? Congrats, you’re not going to Death Row.”
Under recently enacted Florida law, jurors must be unanimous for a defendant to received the death penalty.
The case, mired in legal wranglings for more than a decade, became one of the most expensive death penalty cases in recent South Florida history. The prosecution team, led by Assistant State Attorney Joshua Weintraub, said the Terrorist Boyz were responsible for 12 murders and dozens of other shootings in the North Miami area that shook the community to its core and ended in the early 2000s. Gang members have been charged with only nine of those murders.
Among those allegedly killed by gang members was a man suspected of urinating on the grave of a gang member’s brother, a 13-year-old boy shot dead while riding a bike and a pregnant womoan who identified the gang’s alleged ringleader as someone who ripped her off.
Other gang members indicted along with Jean-Marie in 2008 were Johnny Charles, also known as the “Angel of Death,” Benson Cadet, Max Daniel and Robert St. Germain. St Germain pleaded guilty two years ago and agreed to a 12-year sentence. The others are awaiting trial.
Jean-Marie’s defense team argued that several of the gang member who testified against their client, lied and only did so to receive reduced sentences.
In a fiery defense of Jean-Marie on Tuesday, attorney Terry Lenamon interrupted Weintraub dozens of times during closing arguments, objecting to everything from Weintraub’s claims that Jean-Marie was a gang member to pictures of the murder victims Weintraub posted in front of the jury box. He continually lashed out at the assistant state attorney, forcing the prosecutor to complain to Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Dava Tunis that Lenamon was out of line. She told Lenamon to tone it down.
“The government of the state of Florida has gotten up here and said kill this man [Jean-Marie],” Lenamon said to jurors during his closing Tuesday. “We know he’s not the shooter by your own verdict.”
In a form the jurors filled out after they found Jean-Marie guilty in June, jurors checked off a box that said they found him guilty of the murders of Riviere and Adams, even though they suspected he didn’t pull the trigger. Riviere was a witness in a gun case in which gang members were accused of stealing 33 weapons from a store - several of which were believed used in later crimes.
“You’ve done your job,” Lenamon told jurors before they deliberated on Jean-Marie’s sentence. “Mr. Jean-Marie is never getting out of jail, ever.”
Jean-Marie will serve two life sentences for the deaths of Riviere and his girlfriend, Adams.