NAPLES — The man who fatally shot Gulf Coast High student Jake Couture will seek to bar his prosecution under a state law permitting the use of lethal force in self defense.
An attorney for James Menard, 24, will argue the suspect feared for his life when he shot and killed Couture, 17, and injured two other teenagers following a scuffle at Brittany Bay Apartments in January.
Menard faces a maximum life sentence in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
His attorney, Tim Moffitt, filed the motion on Friday, seeking dismissal of the case under Florida’s 2005 Stand Your Ground law. The statute allows a person to act with deadly force if in “reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm.”
Witness statements suggest Menard may have been spooked by a toy gun, a replica Uzi carried by one of the teenagers in the opposing group. The defendant had a concealed weapons permit, allowing him to carry the .40-caliber handgun he used.
“As the Defendant (in) this matter was attacked and was not engaged in an unlawful activity, he is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm...,” the motion states.
Any hearings on the request would be held before Menard’s trial.
State prosecutor Mara Marzano responded to the motion by adding another charge against Menard, armed trespassing, a felony punishable by a maximum five years in prison.
“I wasn’t going to charge it, your honor,” Marzano told Collier Circuit Judge Franklin Baker. “However, when I saw the Stand Your Ground motion, I thought it was appropriate.”
A key element of a Stand Your Ground claim is that the shooter had a lawful right to be at the location of the incident. Brittany Bay is a gated community in which neither Menard nor his friends lived; on the night of the shooting, they entered through an open gate.
The group was seething over an alleged robbery that had occurred at the complex earlier that day, Jan. 1. Menard’s friends Phillip Markle and Jacob Markham, both students at Gulf Coast High School, said they were mugged in the Brittany Bay parking lot by four men, one of them being Couture.
Returning later that evening, they were met in the parking lot by Couture and three friends, Brandon Morales, Brandon Standifer and Michael Fleitas.
Several witnesses told detectives that Morales held the Uzi replica or even brandished it, claims denied by Morales.
When Standifer shoved Menard twice, the suspect responded by firing three rounds. He struck Couture, Fleitas and Standifer.
Menard is also charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder for the shootings. If convicted of either charge, he faces a maximum 30 years in prison.
The state has offered no plea deals, Marzano told Baker. She said Couture’s family has been uncomfortable with any possible offers.
Menard’s trial was scheduled for December but postponed due to conflicts in Baker’s schedule. The judge scheduled an initial hearing on Moffitt’s motion for Wednesday.
Moffitt has three other motions requests, each seeking to shape testimony in the trial.
One asks Baker to bar witness accounts of drug dealing surrounding the incident, allegations of which have been made by some witnesses. Xanax pills were also found inside Couture’s car.
Another motion requests a prohibition against testimony of the alleged robbery, and a third seeks to prevent witness testimony of Menard’s right to be at Brittany Bay.
Menard remains in the Naples Jail Center.
JAKE COUTURE SHOOTING
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- VIDEO: Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announces an arrest in the New Years Day triple shooting that led to the death of Jake Couture.
- 23-year-old charged in triple shooting, Jake Couture slaying
- 1,400 attend funeral for Gulf Coast High’s Jake Couture
- 911 calls from Jake Couture shooting reveal chaos at scene
- Gulf Coast High deals with shock of shooting death of student; Jake Couture funeral tonight
- Gulf Coast High provides counselors to those mourning fellow student’s death
- Editorial: Collier County Sheriff’s Office ... agency should air video from fatal-shooting site
- 3 suspects sought in slaying of Gulf Coast High student; Report says 1 shooter, 5 shots
- Family, friends hold vigil for slain Gulf Coast High student
- Teen, 'friends with everyone,' shot, killed at North Naples apartments; 2 others injured
- 1 killed, 2 injured after shooting at North Naples apartment complex
- Press Conference: Arrest made in Jake Couture slaying
- Photo Gallery: January 5, 2010 - Jake Couture Service
- Photo Gallery: January 3, 2010 - Vigil for Jake Couture
- Facebook.com Gallery posted by family and friends of Jake Couture
- Ongoing photo gallery with photos of Jake Couture posted on Facebook.com by friends and family members
- NBC 2: Bond for teen's accused murderer set at $3M
- NDN VIDEO: Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announces an arrest in the New Years Day triple shooting that led to the death of Jake Couture.
- NBC 2: Sheriff's office: Arrest made in teen's murder
- NBC 2: Funeral held for murdered teen
- NBC 2: One dead, two injured in North Naples apartment shooting
- NBC 2: Collier teen killed in apartment shooting remembered
- NBC 2: 9-1-1 tapes released after fatal shooting
- Read the obituary for Jake Couture and sign the online guest book
- Read the Collier County Sheriff's Office report on the Jake Couture incident (.PDF file)
- Facebook Page: R.I.P Jake Couture. Gone But Never Forgotten
- Initial Collier County Sheriff's Office media release on the incident
- Collier Sheriff's Office Blog: Arrest Made In Triple Shooting
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #1: Four minutes, seven seconds. (.mp3 file)
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #2: Seven minutes, forty-two seconds. (.mp3 file)
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #3: Two minutes, thirty-four seconds. (.mp3 file)
- The Daily News has posted the 911 tapes, acquired from the Collier County Sheriffs Office, to help readers understand the series of events and confusion surrounding Friday night’s fatal shooting at a North Naples apartment complex. 17-year-old Gulf Coast High School junior Jake Couture was killed by a gunshot wound, and Michael Fleitas, 14, and Brandon Standifer, 21, were injured. Some moments of silence exist on the tapes due to sections that have been removed by the sheriff’s office. We caution listeners that some of the content is graphic, and some of the language used may be considered profane and offensive.