Despite setbacks, prosecutors push forward with murder case in courthouse killing

Gonzalo Venegas

Gonzalo Venegas

They can’t show a jury the alleged murder weapon.

They can’t play the suspect’s statements to police. And they will have to deal with a “stand your ground” motion.

But prosecutors said Monday they are pushing forward with the second-degree murder case against Gonzalo Venegas, 47, of Golden Gate Estates. Venegas is accused of stabbing and killing construction co-worker Oscar Quintero, 41, of North Naples, at the County Courthouse Annex in April 2008.

Lawyers from both sides started planning for a trial date at a hearing Monday, the first since a February appeals court ruling that threw out the alleged murder weapon — a knife — because of improper police questioning.

First, the court likely will hold a “stand your ground” hearing, where Venegas’ lawyer, Donald Day, will argue his client acted in self-defense. Florida’s “stand your ground” law allows for the use of deadly force in certain self-defense situations, such as preventing a forcible felony or instances where the defendant has a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.

“The evidence in the case is that the alleged victim attacked the defendant,” Day said.

Witnesses reported seeing the two men arguing, followed by Venegas and Quintero striking each other “almost simultaneously,” Collier County sheriff’s detective Bill Still said in May 2008. Day said Monday the lone eyewitness reported seeing Quintero “charge my client in an aggressive, fighting manner.”

The “stand your ground” motion hasn’t been filed, and no date has been set for a hearing.

If Venegas’ “stand your ground” motion is denied and the case reaches a trial, prosecutors will have to overcome two rulings. Both the alleged murder weapon and Venegas’ statements to police aren’t admissible because investigators continued to question Venegas after he said three times that he didn’t want to speak without a lawyer.

Following those statements, Venegas told investigators that he hid a knife in a portable toilet at the courthouse.

The State Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment about the decision to continue prosecuting the case after the appeals court ruling.

A status conference has been set for May 7. Originally freed on $500,000 bond in 2008, Venegas has been out on his own recognizance since July 2011.

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