Blaming the victim is a venerable, if risky, strategy in criminal defense. It sometimes works because juries tend to include a disproportionate number of people who are too stupid to get out of jury duty. It is the strategy that accused killer Paul Wayne “Dog” Smith’s defender, Debra Ferwerda, chose to present to the jury during opening arguments this morning. So Smith probably has at least a puncher’s chance of going free.
Ferwerda also plans to invoke Florida’s holy “stand your ground” law, which is increasingly reminiscent of the bygone days when a cop could get away with executing the driver of any slow moving car by simply jumping in front of the car, emptying his pistol and then claiming self-defense accomplished while “in great fear for his life.”
Dog And Old Pillow
Smith is a former Florida Warlock from Florence, South Carolina who joined a faction of what should simply be called the Philly Warlocks. He is one of four Philly Warlocks accused of killing three Florida Warlocks and wounding two others as they rode into the parking lot of a VFW post in Winter Springs, Florida on September 30, 2012. The lot was the starting point for a poker run that had been advertised as a fund raiser for wounded veterans. The five Florida Warlocks were carrying an $800 contribution.
From the beginning the case has been bizarre and cinematic. The Philly Warlocks are split into factions and the shooters were all affiliated with a faction centered on the Chester, Pennsylvania chapter of the club. Some of those involved were Philly Warlocks who moved to Florida and became Florida Warlocks but then they left that club and became Philly Warlocks again. The victims all traveled to Winter Springs from the Florida Warlocks Orlando clubhouse. At the time that chapter was the subject of a reality television series called Warlocks Rising. When that show finally aired months later it credited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for its cooperation. The VFW parking lot was surveilled by two undercover police cars but in an amazing coincidence both cars drove away just before the shooting started. The Florida Warlock who was president of the Orlando chapter testified in a previous trial that he had told the five men who went to the poker run not to do it. Various Philly Warlocks, including Smith, have said publically and privately that they had “Intel” that the Florida Warlocks intended to attack them. The wife of the Orlando chapter president was said to have been spying on the Philly Warlocks at the run and phoning in reports. There are another four or five hundred of these remarkable and possibly even pertinent details. So, the narrative of the case mostly resembles what a dog can do to an old feather pillow.
Three Florida Warlocks died within seconds of entering the parking lot. They were Harold “Lil Dave” Liddle, Peter “Hormone” Schlette and Dave “Dresser” Jakiela. Two more Florida Warlocks, Brad Dyess and Ronnie “Whiteboy” Mitchell were wounded in the exchange of gunfire that followed. Four Philly Warlocks were charged with murder and attempted murder. Former Florida Warlock David “Tin Man” Maloney was acquitted on three of four counts in April and my be retried on a mistried count of attempted murder. Robert William “Willy” Eckert, who fired three shots that didn’t hit anybody, was found guilty of multiple counts and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Victor Manuel “Pancho” Amaro who killed Liddle and Jakiela was sentenced to life in prison.
Smith shot and killed Schlette and this morning Ferwerda called it an unavoidable act of self defense. Smith ran toward Schlette, told him to leave then shot him in the arm with a .40 caliber pistol round. Schelette and his motorcycle fell. Schlette rose, profanely complained that Smith had just shot him and Smith shot the wounded man in the eye. Prosecutors have categorized the incident as an “ambush.” This morning Ferwerda told the jury that after Smith fired the first, non-lethal shot he felt “something” hit him in the face “and not knowing if half of his face is blown off” he managed to squeeze off another round as he stumbled.
Ferwerda also told jurors that Smith was the victim of an “ambush” by the Florida Warlocks. Although none of the dead men were carrying firearms, she described their deaths as “a gunfight from the wild, wild west” and “justified self defense.” She said Smith was still traumatized from an incident a decade ago when Schlette threatened to rape his wife and steal his bike. She said her client had been badly beaten on February 5, 2011 after he lost a club wide election. And she told the jury “September 30, 2012 was just one page in a long book of threats and violence.”
Maybe the jury believed her. The trial is expected to last through the week.