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Appeals court says car can be 'weapon'

Court rejects appeals argument in Duval County case

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a manslaughter case involving a man who was fatally struck by a car after an altercation at a bar, a state appeals court Thursday ruled that a vehicle can be considered a weapon in criminal cases.

A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal, however, acknowledged that its conclusion in the Duval County case differed from a stance taken by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in another case and raised the possibility that the Florida Supreme Court should resolve the vehicle issue.

Thursday's ruling stemmed from a 2011 incident in which Adam Lloyd Shepard got into what the 1st District Court of Appeal described as a “tussle” with another man at a sports bar while watching a basketball game. That man was identified in previous reports as Spencer Schott, 35.

Shepard was escorted out of the bar but contacted Schott by phone.

Shepard was convicted of later hitting Schott with a car in a parking lot and leaving the scene, the ruling said.

The appeals court did not name Schott, who died of head injuries.

A Duval County jury found Shepard guilty of manslaughter with a weapon and leaving the scene of a crash involving death.

Under state law, the use of a weapon bumped up the manslaughter charge from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony.

Shepard challenged the reclassification of the crime to a first-degree felony based on the car being considered a “weapon.”

But the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected his arguments.

“Appellee (the state) argues that an automobile, when used in the manner appellant (Shepard) used it, constitutes a weapon in the common and ordinary meaning of the word,” said the eight-page ruling, written by Judge John T. Brown and joined by judges Scott Makar and Allen Winsor. “We agree with this `use' argument.”

Shepard was sentenced to 45 years in prison on the two charges. But the appeals court ordered a resentencing because it said a circuit judge inappropriately considered Shepard's “lack of remorse” while sentencing him.