TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An appeals court Wednesday upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a man who said he should be shielded from prosecution under the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law in a 2014 shooting in a car in rural Palm Beach County.
The ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal stemmed from the conviction of Hiram Gonzalez Morales in the death of Crestony Colin.
Morales contended that he killed Colin in self-defense after Colin pointed a gun at him and demanded money while the pair were in a car in rural Palm Beach County.
Morales said he twisted Colin’s hand that held the gun, which went off and killed Colin.
Morales put Colin’s body in the trunk of the car and later set fire to the car in western Broward County, with Morales suffering burns on his legs, according to Wednesday’s ruling.
Morales unsuccessfully argued in circuit court that he should be shielded from prosecution under the “stand your ground” law, which says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
He also raised self-defense arguments at trial but was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
The appeals court, in an eight-page ruling, said the circuit judge did not err in denying the “stand your ground” defense.
“The trial court heard Morales’ description of how the gun went off, including his demonstrating what occurred,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Martha Warner and joined by judges Carole Taylor and Spencer Levine. “The court found it ‘physically impossible’ for the incident to have happened as testified to by Morales, so much so that the court did not require the state to put on its other evidence. Given the facts presented, the trial court had competent substantial evidence to support the denial of the motion.”