A judge granted a "stand your ground" motion Friday morning in the case against a Golden Gate Estates man charged in the April 2008 stabbing death of a co-worker.
Unless prosecutors appeal, the ruling ends the second-degree murder case against Gonzalo Venegas, 47, who said he was defending himself when he stabbed and killed Oscar Quintero, 41, of North Naples. The stabbing occurred while the two construction workers were on the job at the Collier County Courthouse Annex.
Venegas' lawyer, Donald Day, had argued Quintero first attacked Venegas, giving his client the right to fight back with deadly force. 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.
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 has previously said the only eyewitnesses saw Quintero charge at Venegas "in an aggressive, fighting manner."
The case has already reached a district appeals court once. In February, the appeals court tossed the alleged murder weapon and statements Venegas made to sheriff's investigators. Detectives continued questioning Venegas after he declined to talk without first speaking to a lawyer, the court ruled.
Originally freed on $500,000 bond, Venegas has been out on his own recognizance since July 2011. Collier Circuit Judge James Shenko ruled Friday after hearing roughly two hours of arguments.
“We respect the judge’s decision,” said State Attorney’s Office Spokeswoman Samantha Syoen. “ Due to a motion to suppress evidence being granted earlier, we could not use our evidence. “