In a split opinion, a state appellate panel Thursday found in favor of an Opa-locka man who had been denied the use of the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law in a double-homicide case.
The ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal basically provides immunity from prosecution to Gabriel Mobley, who had faced two second-degree murder charges.
The majority in the three-judge panel found Mobley had every reason to fear for his life outside a Chili’s Bar & Grill in Miami Lakes in February 2008 when he shot two men with a Glock .45.
The opinion reversed a decision made in April by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull, who rejected Mobley’s assertion of self-defense.
In the 2-1 decision, the appellate panel found Mobley was clearly protected by the state Stand Your Ground law, which received nationwide focus when unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a member of a neighborhood watch patrol, in 2012 in Sanford.
The Third DCA granted Mobley’s petition for writ of prohibition seeking to preclude the circuit court from proceeding further in adjudicating criminal charges.
Jason Jesus Gonzalez and Rolando Carrazana, both 24, were killed in February 2008 during the confrontation. Video surveillance from the restaurant show Mobley’s friend, Jose Correa, under a physical attack in the parking lot.
Gonzalez and Carranza were angry because Correa asked them to stop bothering a group of females who worked for his tax preparation office.
Mobley said he opened fire when he saw Carranaza reach under his shirt for what he thought was a weapon. Two restaurant knives were found near the body of Carranaza.
Chief Judge Frank Shepherd and Judge Linda Ann Wells ruled in favor of Mobley, who had a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Judge Vance E. Salter dissented.
Wells, writing for the majority, wrote that the shooting at issue did not occur in a vacuum. “Mobley did not shoot two innocent bystanders who just happened upon him on a sidewalk,” Mobley said.
“The record — as corroborated by a video of the events — is that Mobley found himself in the middle of a violent, unprovoked attack on a companion who was standing right next to him.”
Mobley testified at a hearing last year in front of Rebull that he was scared when he pulled his weapon, convinced thought the men were going to kill him and Correa, who just had his eye socket fractured by a punch from Gonzalez.
“I didn’t know what Chico had got hit with, and it was so much blood, I freaked, I was scared and I seen (sic) this other guy coming up from the back,” Mobley testified.
Mobley, who owned his own pressure cleaner business, cooperated with prosecutors from the onset. He was charged with murder five months after the shooting.
The case had been cited as a test of the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which was passed by lawmakers in 2005 and eliminated the duty of a citizen to retreat before resorting to deadly force.
Rebull had stayed the criminal case against Mobley until the appellate court heard the case and issued its decision.
The opinion written by Wells has an unusual immediacy to it because she uses first names and nicknames of participants throughout and spells out just about every moment leading up to the shootings, including interactions inside the restaurant.
She wrote Mobley tried to act as “peacemaker” to no avail and did nothing to provoke the violent attack.
Judge Salter, in his dissent, said the trial judge committed no error in ruling that Stand Your Ground did not apply. Salter noted five shots were fired by Mobley in retaliation for a single punch and said the surveillance tape isn’t clear enough to support the defendant’s contention Carranaza had reached for a weapon.
He also noted that Mobley and Correa went outside the restaurant three times to smoke, but it was only the third time when Mobley retrieved his gun from his vehicle. Salter also wondered why Mobley did not leave the premises after receiving a clear threat from Gonzalez and Carranza within the restaurant.
“Instead of going home to his wife as he had said, the defendant lingered on the sidewalk with Mr. Correa for a third, fateful smoke,” Salter wrote.