JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A federal judge has thrown out a man's attempted second-degree murder conviction because of faulty jury instructions.
Shkelqim Fana has been locked up for the last 14 years for an incident that grew out of a love triangle. Fana's attorney said he was acting in self-defense.
Fana has three years left on his sentence. He was moved to a private prison down south, but was recently transported back to the Duval County jail, waiting for a decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. He hopes a retrial will make him a free man, saying he never should've been locked up in the first place.
Fana and his family moved to Jacksonville from Albania in 1998 to better their lives. Two years later, he caught his wife having an affair with his best friend and went to his workplace to confront him.
"According to Fana, that individual attacked him, and during the fight, knives, because they were at a bread company, were available," attorney Mitch Stone said. "And there was a knife fight, essentially, and Fana was able to stab the other guy and get out of there."
Fana was arrested and convicted, but it was appealed because of a jury instruction that dealt with incorrect use of an exemption to self-defense.
The family hired Stone, who worked through a lengthy appeals process as Fana remained behind bars.
"Staying behind prison without seeing his children, that's been very hard for him," said Arben Goxhaj, Fana's friend.
Stone said he found 15 examples of ineffective counsel during the trial, including Fana not being able to comprehend what was happening.
"There was definitely some question about his understanding of the English language," Stone said. "There was definitely some questioning about his understanding things that were not interpreted to him, and there were several different interpreters."
Stone said many strange circumstances surround this case, such as key evidence, including the knife in the fight, mysteriously destroyed.
"It was a mistake. That's basically what everyone is saying," Stone said. "It was a mistake. It wasn't intentionally destroyed. It's a pretty important case ... You would think there would be a little bit stricter requirements."
A federal district judge recently wrote an 87-page order for Fana to get a new trial. The state appealed that, so now, once again, it's a holding pattern while the former Albanian national soccer player waits in jail.
"Suffering in prison for a long time, and I do believe to the American justice at the end of the day they're going to give freedom to my friend," Goxhaj said.
Everything is on hold until the federal appeal is resolved.
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