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Jupiter hate crime suspect claims 'stand your ground' defense

Posted at 4:06 PM, Oct 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-12 04:50:41-04

A man accused of beating a Guatemalan man to death in an apparent hate crime claims he had the right to defend himself during the fight.

Officials say David Harris, along with his brother Jesse Harris and another person, Austin Taggart, killed Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos outside a Jupiter home on April 18, 2015.

David Harris recently filed a motion asking the presiding judge to dismiss his charges in this case based on the “Stand Your Ground” defense.

Officers say Harris hit Ramos-Lopez with a rock on the back of his head and then beat him with an ax handle. According to a Jupiter Police Department report, Harris also made derogatory remarks after killing Ramos-Lopez saying he was hunting for members of the Guatemalan community.

‘[Harris] gave statements to the police describing his self-defense and the defense of his brother, Jesse Harris,” Harris’s attorney Franklin Prince wrote in the motion.

Jupiter police say Ramos Lopez’s brother, Elmer Antonio Lopez-Ramos, told them he felt uneasy when he saw the three men approaching the home in 2015 so he went to a shed and picked up an ax handle in case he had to defend himself. One of the men attacked him, hitting him in the back of the head as he ran away, a report states. 

Harris, however, is claiming in the motion that Elmer Antonio Lopez-Ramos was the only person armed with a deadly weapon when the fighting began. 

Harris appeared before a Palm Beach County Judge Wednesday as the case moves forward.

WPTV asked legal analyst Michelle Suskauer what the prosecution will have to prove. 

“The burden then shifts to the state attorney to then prove by clear and convincing evidence against the motion,” said Suskauer.

Harris, his brother Jesse, and Taggart were scheduled to go to trial in November but the judge canceled that date after attorneys asked for more time before trial.

The judge decided the three will be tried separately.

The judge is expected to rule on Harris’s “Stand Your Ground” motion in December.

Neither Jesse Harris nor Taggart has claimed the defense tactic and an attorney for Jesse Harris said in court Wednesday that he does not anticipate them claiming “Stand Your Ground."