GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A three-woman, three-man jury handed down a guilty verdict last week in the trial of Tomy Lee Byrd, 48, of Orange Park after hearing closing arguments …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A three-woman, three-man jury handed down a guilty verdict last week in the trial of Tomy Lee Byrd, 48, of Orange Park after hearing closing arguments last Wednesday.
Byrd was found guilty of reduced charges or two counts of battery and theft. The jury acquitted him on one count of battery on a firefighter.
Byrd was originally charged with two counts of second-degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, burglary and battery on a firefighter. The charges stem from a July 2016 incident where Byrd allegedly stole items from the Walmart at 899 Blanding Blvd. He was stopped by Clay County Sheriff’s Department in his vehicle where he attempted to flee. During the getaway attempt, Byrd struck Detective Robert Baltean with his Dodge Ram truck and ran over Deputy David Valler’s legs.
Prior to closing arguments, Circuit Court Judge Michael Sharrit spoke to the attorneys and Byrd without the jury present.
When Sharrit asked Byrd if there was any evidence that he wished had been shown that had not been, Byrd said yes. Byrd said he wished the photo of Deputy Valler’s leg had been shown because the photo showed no scarring or bruising to the leg.
When Sharrit questioned the relevance of the photo, Byrd said that he believed that the photo shows that the deputy wasn’t as hurt as it was being made out to be. Byrd even went so far as to seemingly mock the deputy’s screams that had been heard on recorded audio earlier in the trial. He said the jury was allowed to hear the screams but never saw the photos that showed that “it wasn’t as bad as they’re trying to make it seem.”
After a recess to confer with Byrd, the defense ultimately agreed not to have the photo used as evidence. They told Byrd that the extent of injury had no bearing on the charges he was facing and that they could argue his case without the photo.
State attorneys Hector Murcia and Jessica Narducci went back over the evidence as well as quotes from the officers and witnesses in their closing statements.
For the charge of robbery, Narducci emphasized the use of force and threats by Byrd while leaving the store. She stated that both video evidence and witness testimony established those facts.
She moved on to the charge of battery of a firefighter. She stated that firefighter Justin Dean was in full uniform and had arrived to the scene in a firetruck which she argued meant there was no chance Byrd was unaware that Dean was a firefighter.
The most serious charges were saved for last.
Narducci insisted that Byrd’s actions proved ill-will, hatred or evil intent towards the officers, a key component of the charges of attempted second-degree murder.
Narducci said that Byrd could hear the screams of Deputy Valler as his legs were run over, yet still didn’t stop the truck. She repeated what Byrd said to Detective Baltean as Baltean attempted to gain control of the vehicle as further proof of Byrd’s intent.
“‘You’re gonna have to kill me, just kill me. I ran over a cop, just kill me’,” Narducci read quoting Byrd the day of the robbery.
Defense attorney Mark Wright began his closing statements by saying that Byrd isn’t completely innocent, but he is overcharged. He urged the jury to consider lesser charges.
“Hold him accountable, but hold him accountable for what he actually did,” said Wright.
Wright refuted the State’s case for robbery, saying that no threats or physical violence occurred and that the video supports that. He argued that Byrd was guilty of grand theft, not robbery.
The more serious charges were next and Wright told the jury that he simply wanted justice.
“His actions are not excusable. I’m not asking you to like Mr. Byrd. I’m asking you to uphold the law,” said Wright.
Wright argued that Byrd was resisting arrest, kicking and fighting everyone. Which means that he did not intentionally target Justin Dean and had no way of knowing Dean was a firefighter.
The definition of attempted second-degree murder has two parts.
The first part is that the defendant “intentionally did an act which would have caused the death of the victim except someone or something prevented his death.”
The second part is “the intentional act is known by the average person to be dangerous and the act itself is done from an evil heart with no care for human life.”
Wright argued that neither of those parts applies to Byrd’s actions. Wright said that Byrd was attempting to flee and turned the vehicle away from officers and that there was no evidence of hatred, spite, evil intent or ill will. Wright said that Detective Baltean’s actions of grabbing the wheel of the vehicle led to the officers being in harm’s way, not Byrd’s actions.
Wright stated that Byrd is guilty of grand theft, resisting a merchant, fleeing officers, resisting an officer with violence and battery. He ended his closing statements by saying that while Byrd was guilty of those things, he was not guilty of attempted second-degree murder.
No date has yet been set for sentencing.