Judge to rule on Saavedra 'Stand Your Ground' defense by mid-Jan.

Jorge Saavedra

Jorge Saavedra

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Video from NBC-2

A two-day hearing in the case of a fatal January bus stop stabbing concluded Thursday without a ruling from the judge.

Collier Circuit Judge Lauren Brodie said she would issue a written ruling by Jan. 17 in the defense's "Stand Your Ground" motion. If her decision favors the defense, Jorge Saavedra would be immune from further criminal prosecution and civil suits in the death of 16-year-old Dylan Nuno.

Saavedra, now 15, is charged as a juvenile with aggravated manslaughter in the Jan. 24 killing.

Three more Palmetto Ridge High School students took the stand on the hearing's second day, including Nuno's 17-year-old friend Moises Gutierrez, who got off the bus with him the afternoon of the fight.

He described how Saavedra, now 15, hit Nuno in the stomach, face to face, with "uppercuts at his body."

His testimony disputed Saavedra's account on Wednesday that he stabbed Nuno with a "pocket knife" in his right hand by reaching under his left arm with his back toward Nuno.

How Saavedra was positioned when he stabbed Nuno was a point of contention for the prosecution and defense throughout the hearing.

Testimony from Manfred Borges, Collier County's deputy medical examiner, indicated that the 12 stab wounds on Nuno's abdomen and chest were largely from right to left and "consistent with a face to face, upward stabbing motion."

One hit Nuno's heart.

"That's really the most fatal injury here. That is what caused death," said Borges, who conducted the autopsy on Nuno.

Several jabs went into the teen's chest cavity, and one nicked "the very tip of the heart," Borges said, pointing out each wound to the judge in photos that weren't seen by the public.

Nuno's mother, aunt and friend cried as Borges detailed the injuries, the majority of which were superficial.

Another contested point was the role of the crowd that gathered to watch the fight.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Donald Day lobbed allegations that Nuno was committing aggravated assault, battery, and stalking against Saavedra — and as such, his client had no duty to retreat and the right to use deadly force.

The burden of proof was on the defense during this hearing to prove Saavedra was justified in using "deadly force" as stated in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" statute. In this motion, the defense had to show a preponderance of evidence, unlike a jury trial where the state would have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Day highlighted what he called "taunting and ridicule" on prior occasions by Nuno and a "group of individuals" present at the fight as a main factor in Saavedra's fear.

Saavedra would often avoid the bus to dodge the conflict with Nuno, Day said. The afternoon of the stabbing Saavedra even got off the bus before the determined fight location, he said, in order to keep out of a fight.

"Jorge had every reason to believe ... that he was going to be beat up and assaulted by more than one person," he said.

"My client had two choices: fight or flight. ... He attempted to escape," Day said. "He was cornered a second time. He picked fight ... using the force necessary to stop the action."

The matchup of fists versus a knife is the root of the problem, the prosecution argued. Retaliating with punches would be meeting "force with force" in a classic legal definition of self-defense, they said.

Absence of bruising or other physical injuries to Saavedra from the punches meant there "was no danger of Jorge being maimed that day, being permanently disable, being killed. ... Nowhere near that," Assistant State Attorney Tom Gorman III said. "The defendant went so far beyond what was reasonable that day."

Tension began between the two teens earlier in the school year over a paper ball with whipped cream tossed at Saavedra from the back of the bus, where Nuno sat. A friend of Saavedra testified Thursday the teen carried a knife to school before.

"Because someone was picked on does not give them a license to kill," Gorman said.

The fact that a girl Saavedra briefly dated also like Nuno may have played into the conflict as well, the prosecution said.

If the judge rules in favor of the defense in "Stand Your Ground," the aggravated manslaughter charge Saavedra faces will be dismissed. The defense could still use the self-defense argument during an ensuing bench trial if the judge rules against this week's immunity motion.

During the two days of the hearing, 20 teens testified — including Saavedra — about the nature of the relationship between Nuno and Saavedra, as well as what happened Jan. 24.

A bullying expert, a Collier deputy, and an adult couple who witnessed the fight also took the stand Thursday.

The couple separately described seeing an intense fight just after a group of students got off the bus on 47th Avenue Northeast in Golden Gate Estates that afternoon. Nuno then collapsed on the street, and Saavedra took off running.

He was apprehended by deputies, including Alison Disarro, who testified that Saavedra had blood spatter on his shirt when he was caught at the edge of a nearby wooded area.

Though the defense attempted to establish a history of bullying by Nuno toward Saavedra, school disciplinary records were excluded by the judge from the hearing. An expert in bullying spoke about the general nature of what constitutes bullying, but could not comment on any interaction between the two boys.

The judge's ruling could come any time before the Jan. 17 date Brodie set at the close of the hearing. A November ruling she handed down took one week instead of the two the judge initially planned.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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