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Deidre Michelle HUNT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: To collect insurance money - Murder-for-hire plot
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: October 20/November 4, 1989
Date of birth: February 9, 1969
Victims profile: Kevin Ramsey, 19 / Bryan Chase, 18
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Volusia County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 13, 1990. Resentenced to two terms of life imprisonment on May 7, 1998
 
 

 
 
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Supreme Court of Florida

 
Deidre Michelle Hunt v. State of Florida
 
 

 
 

Deidre Hunt

DC# 161918

WF, born 2/9/69, was sentenced from Volusia County on 9/13/90 for the 10/20/89 shooting murders of two men she involved in a murder for money scheme. She was videotaped shooting one of the men by her co-defendant Kosta Fotopoulos, her former boss and lover. She plead guilty. She was resentenced to life on May 7, 1998. She is at Homestead Correctional Institution.


Deidre Hunt

In 1989, Deidre hunt was a slim 20-year-old bartender working at Top Shots, a Daytona Beach pool hall owned by Kosta Fotopoulos. Kosta was 30 and married to Lisa Fotopoulos, the owner of several lucrative businesses. Though he was tired of Lisa, Kosta didn't want to leave her -- that would mean losing out on her money.

Instead, Kosta began an affair with Deidre. Together the two lured Kevin Ramsey, 19, to a shooting range, telling him he would be inducted into a club. Ramsey, who also worked at Top Shots, had been demanding more money and threatening to expose Kosta's counterfeit money scheme. Saying he'd kill her if she didn't comply, Kosta videotaped as Deidre tied Kevin to a tree and shot him three times in the chest with a .22 pistol. Then, with the camera still rolling, she ran up to the tree and shot him point-blank in the temple.

When Lisa found out that her husband was cheating on her with the young and spunky Deidre and threatened to leave him, Kosta decided he had no choice but to kill her. Using the tape as blackmail, Kosta convinced Deidre to hire someone to kill Lisa. Enticed by the promise of a cut of Lisa's $700,000 insurance policy, 18-year-old Bryan Chase agreed to do the job. On the agreed-upon night, Chase entered the Fotopoulos home and shot Lisa once in the head as she lay in bed. Kostas, never intending to pay Chase a cent, sat up in the bed and shot Chase multiple times, killing him.

Kostas and Deidre were both sentenced to death. Deidre, 21 at the time of her trial, wept as the judge announced her fate: to die in Florida's electric chair. In 1998, her sentence was reduced to life in prison. Now 43, she maintains a website seeking pen pals. Kostas remains on death row, where he continues to appeal for a reduced sentence. Lisa survived the shooting but the bullet remains lodged in her head. She has since remarried.

TruTV.com


Deidre Hunt

Circumstances of Offense:

During the summer of 1989, Konstantinos Fotopoulos began having an extra-marital affair with a bartender, Deidre Hunt, who worked at his bar. 

On 10/20/89, Fotopoulos and Hunt lured Kevin Ramsey to an isolated shooting range by telling him he was to be inducted into a club. Fotopoulos intended to kill Ramsey to prevent Ramsey from blackmailing him [Fotopoulos] concerning counterfeiting activities.  Fotopoulos threatened Hunt that he would kill her if she did not kill Ramsey. 

Ramsey was tied to a tree, and Hunt shot Ramsey three times in the chest and once in the head with a .22 pistol, while Fotopoulos videotaped the shooting.  Fotopoulos stopped taping and shot Ramsey once in the head with an AK-47 assault rifle. 

Fotopoulos then conspired to kill his wife, Lisa Fotopoulos, in order to collect $700,000 in insurance proceeds.  Fotopoulos used the videotape of Hunt killing Ramsey in order to get Hunt’s cooperation in the murder of Lisa Fotopoulos. 

Fotopoulos instructed Hunt to hire someone to kill Lisa Fotopoulos.  Hunt attempted to hire a man on two occasions, but the plan never materialized.  A friend of Hunt’s, Lisa Henderson, led Hunt to her boyfriend, Teja James, who was hired to kill Lisa Fotopoulos for $5,000.

After James botched two attempts to kill Lisa Fotopoulos, Bryan Chase was hired to kill Lisa. After several unsuccessful attempts, Chase went to the Fotopoulos home on 11/04/89 and shot Lisa Fotopoulos once in the head, but the wound was not fatal. 

Fotopoulos then shot Chase repeatedly, to make the murder attempt appear to be a failed burglary.  In a search of the Fotopoulos home by police, the Ramsey murder videotape, a .22 pistol, and an AK-47 assault rifle were found. 

Deidre Hunt was indicted for the same crimes as Fotopoulos, but pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to death for the murders of Ramsey and Chase.  On appeal, however, her convictions were affirmed but her death sentences were vacated.  Before her retrial, Hunt was allowed to withdraw her guilty verdict and proceed to trial.  The jury returned guilty verdicts on all charges.  On 05/07/98, Hunt was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment.


Deidre Hunt Won't Return To Death Row

At Trial, She Got A Life Sentence In The Slayings Of Two Teenagers In A Daytona Beach Murder-for-hire Plot

By Purvette A. Bryant - OrlandoSentinel.com

May 8, 1998

ST. AUGUSTINE - Deidre Hunt, who has spent almost eight years on Florida's death row for killing two teenagers caught up in a murder-for-hire plot, walked out of a St. Augustine courtroom Thursday to spend the rest of her life in prison.

Hunt escaped the death penalty in a case that allowed her to withdraw her 1990 guilty plea and stand trial for the 1989 shooting deaths of Kevin Ramsey, 19, and Bryan Chase, 18, both of Daytona Beach.

Circuit Judge Ed Sanders sentenced Hunt to life in prison with a chance for parole in 25 years for Chase's and Ramsey's deaths.

Sanders then sentenced the former cocktail waitress to life without parole for her other convictions, including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and burglary of a dwelling while armed.

In 1989, Hunt and her ex-lover, Boardwalk businessman Kosta Fotopoulos, plotted to kill Fotopoulos' wife, Lisa, for $700,000 in life insurance.

Carey Haughwout, Hunt's attorney, held Hunt in her arms as she heard the first two sentences that spared her the electric chair. Hunt maintained that Fotopoulos threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't help kill his wife.

Outside the courtroom, Haughwout said she was pleased with the sentence but will appeal Hunt's convictions.

No family members of the victims attended the hearing. Hunt's mother, Carol Hunt, 53, showed no emotion but held her crying mother, Alma Hunt.

After the hearing, Carol Hunt, who testified that she suffered from a mental disorder, said she felt no relief over her daughter's life sentence and claimed ''total defeat for the mentally ill.''

Hunt's attorney argued that she suffered from an abusive childhood and was insane when she shot Ramsey three times in the chest and once in the head while he stood tied to a tree.

Lisa Fotopoulos, now Lisa Psaros, said Thursday Hunt ''got what she deserved.'' During a staged burglary Nov. 4, 1989, Chase shot her once in the head while she slept. Hunt had hired Chase to carry out the slaying by promising him $10,000.

Psaros survived with a bullet still lodged in her head. Chase was gunned down by Kosta Fotopoulos who had planned to kill him all along.

''As long as she sits in jail for the rest of her life that's fine with me,'' Psaros said. ''She deserves the death penalty."

Vickie Renshaw, Kevin Ramsey's mother, said the sentence is what she expected, but not what she wanted.

''I really wanted the death penalty, but I really didn't think she'd get it,'' said Renshaw of Wilmington, N.C. ''I had that feeling.''

Keith Ramsey, Kevin's brother, said the life sentence was ''too good'' for Hunt.

''It's bad enough that they killed Kevin, but to tie him to a tree?'' said Ramsey, 28. ''If I was gonna shoot a stray dog that tore up my flower bed I wouldn't tie him to a tree and shoot him ... [with Kevin) you're talking about a human being.''

Chase's mother, Carol Seel, and stepfather, Russell Seel, couldn't be reached for comment. Assistant State Attorney Rick Ridgway, who prosecuted the case, said the judge gave his decision a lot of thought.

Hunt's controversial case took several twists and turns including a $5,000 deal her former attorney, Peter Niles, made with a tabloid TV show A Current Affair months before he urged her to plead guilty to the murders.

As a result, the Florida Supreme Court overturned Hunt's death sentence in 1995 and allowed her to withdraw her guilty plea. Hunt demanded a trial.

Haughwout said she hopes Hunt's case will draw attention to the effects of being raised by a mentally ill parent.

''Deidre has been very scarred and very affected by that,'' Haughwout said. ''I'm not sure she looks to next week. She can live in the moment. But, I don't know that she has the ability, at this point, to look to the rest of her life.''


Guilty Verdicts For Hunt For All Her Deadly Deeds

By Purvette A. Bryant - The Orlando Sentinel

April 24, 1998

ST. AUGUSTINE — Deidre Hunt wasn't insane the night she fatally shot a Daytona Beach teenager, or when she hired a killer to shoot her boyfriend's wife to collect insurance money, a jury decided Thursday.

The former cocktail waitress, who was captured on videotape brazenly firing three bullets into 19-year-old Kevin Ramsey's chest and one into his head, was convicted of his murder and the death of Bryan Chase, 18.

The two men were involved in a bungled murder-for-hire scheme Hunt and her lover, Boardwalk businessman Kosta Fotopoulos, orchestrated in 1989.

A 12-member jury also found Hunt, 29, guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, two counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and burglary of a dwelling while armed. The jury reached its verdict after hearing six days of testimony and deliberating for a day-and-a-half.

Moments before the verdicts were announced, defense attorney Carey Haughwout locked arms with her client and clutched her hand. Hunt showed no emotion but hung her head while a clerk read the unanimous decision in a St. Augustine courtroom.

Vickie Renshaw of Wilmington, N.C., nodded in approval when "guilty" was announced in the death of her son, Kevin Ramsey.

Renshaw, who attended the trial with her husband, Terry, quickly wiped away tears of relief. The couple later left the courtroom without comment.

Hunt's mother, Carol Ann Hunt of New Hampshire, showed no emotion. Haughwout and prosecutor Rick Ridgway also had no comment outside the courtroom.

The penalty phase to decide whether Hunt will receive life in prison or the death penalty will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday before Volusia Circuit Judge Ed Sanders at the St. Johns County Courthouse.

In 1989, Hunt and Kosta Fotopoulos plotted to kill his wife, Lisa Fotopoulos, for $700,000 in insurance money. After several failed attempts on Lisa Fotopoulos' life, Hunt finally convinced Chase to shoot Fotopoulos while she slept in her bed.

In the early-morning hours of Nov. 4, 1989, Chase entered the Fotopoulos house during a staged burglary, shot Lisa Fotopoulos once in the head and was then riddled with bullets by Kosta Fotopoulos, who had planned to kill Chase all along.

Lisa Fotopoulos, now Lisa Psaros, survived the attack. She sat in the St. Augustine courtroom with the bullet still lodged in her brain. Psaros, her husband, Komis Psaros, and her brother, Dino Paspalakis, smiled in approval at the verdicts.

"I'm glad that justice was done, I'm glad it's finally over and I can get on with my life now," Lisa Psaros said outside the courthouse.

"If anyone deserves the electric chair, it's her."

In 1990, Hunt pleaded guilty to the slayings and was sentenced to death. She was allowed to withdraw her guilty plea in 1995 when the Florida Supreme Court decided her former attorney, Peter Niles, had improperly sold her story, "Deadly Deidre," to the TV show A Current Affair for $5,000.


Deidre Hunt - Deadly Or A Victim?

The 12 Jurors Will Resume Their Deliberations Today In St. Augustine In Her Murder Trial.

By Purvette A. Bryant - The Orlando Sentinel

April 23, 1998

ST. AUGUSTINE — In the eyes of prosecutors, Deidre Hunt saw a free ride to luxury when she helped her boyfriend plot his wife's murder nine years ago.

Defense attorneys, however, contend the cocktail waitress known as "Dee" was a victim who couldn't escape an abusive relationship that locked her into a spiral of torment and pain.

After more than six hours of deliberations Wednesday night, a 12-member jury hadn't decided what it believes in the case that drew national attention because Hunt was videotaped executing a teenager.

So jurors will return to a St. Augustine courtroom today to decide whether Hunt, 29, is guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the 1989 shooting deaths of Kevin Ramsey, 19, and Bryan Chase, 18, two Daytona Beach teenagers involved in a murder-for-hire scheme. Jurors also must return verdicts on her other charges: attempted murder, burglary and conspiracy to commit murder. The trial was scheduled after the Florida Supreme Court invalidated Hunt's prior plea bargain.

In 1989, Hunt and her lover, Boardwalk businessman Kosta Fotopoulos, conspired to kill Fotopoulos' wife, Lisa Fotopoulos, for $700,000 in insurance money. The lovers met while Hunt worked as a cocktail waitress at Top Shots, a billiards bar Fotopoulos owned.

During the three-week trial, jurors heard from the defense that Fotopoulos had wooed Hunt with gifts and promises, then tightened his grip on her life with death threats, fear and control.

And they heard prosecutors explain how Hunt willingly worked with her lover, with hopes of sharing the insurance money and taking Lisa Fotopoulos' place in his life.

Throughout the trial, Hunt's defense has been that she was a battered woman who couldn't escape his control. A defense mental-health expert testified she was insane when she shot and killed Ramsey, who was tied to a tree and executed under the watchful eye of a video camera.

Wednesday's closing arguments painted two different pictures of Hunt's emotional state when the murders were committed.

Prosecutor Rick Ridgway told the jury that Fotopoulos was a dangerous man. Ridgway didn't dispute that Hunt had a traumatic childhood filled with emotional and physical abuse.

But those facts don't excuse her actions the night she faced Kevin Ramsey and fired three bullets into his chest while he was tied to the tree, Ridgway said.

Hunt's past didn't force her to hire Bryan Chase or literally to beg him to kill Lisa Fotopoulos when the cocktail waitress knew that Chase would be shot to death when the job was completed, Ridgway said.

She even told investigators in a videotaped confession: "I knew that boy wasn't coming out alive," the prosecutor said in his case summary.

"That was clearly a conspiracy by Deidre Hunt to achieve the death of Lisa Fotopoulos," Ridgway said. "She's as guilty of that crime as if she'd done it herself."

In the early-morning hours of April 4, 1989, Chase entered the Fotopoulos home in Daytona Beach and shot Lisa Fotopoulos in the head while she slept. Chase was killed when Kosta Fotopoulos sat up in bed and returned fire, but the wife survived her wound.

Ridgway said Hunt's claim that she feared Kosta Fotopoulos is actually a sign of good mental health - because it shows she was able to deduce he had a dangerous reputation.

"It's crazy anytime you think you can kill another human being and get away with it," Ridgway said. "Is that insanity? No. A lot of people have traumatic childhoods. A lot of people grow up in bad circumstances."

Closing arguments for the defense focused on Hunt's state of mind when she killed Ramsey and hired Chase. Defense attorney Carey Haughwout said the fear, intimidation and control Fotopoulos inflicted upon Hunt turned her into a puppet who obeyed his every command.

Fotopoulos is in prison on a death sentence. He didn't attend Hunt's murder trial, Haughwout told jurors. But, his presence, the presence of evil, permeated the courtroom, she said.

"Can't you hear him," Haughwout told the jury. "Can't you hear his voice?"

Haughwout described the mind-set that Fotopoulos had when he courted Hunt to find out her needs and what frightened her. When the pair met, Hunt was homeless and had no money.

Fotopoulos made her feel special, so she was a prime candidate for his evil scheme, Haughwout said.

"The presence that's been here with us is evil," Haughwout said. "It's an evil that pervades the body and an evil that controls the mind. It's an evil that can capture the soul.

"We know he[ Kosta Fotopoulos) is capable of murder. Is it hard to believe he's capable of owning this young girl?"

Hunt's state of mind was so warped and weakened by Fotopoulos that she didn't realize the consequences of her actions, Haughwout said.

In the end, Haughwout asked jurors not to treat her client with kid gloves or be sympathetic to her cause.

"We just ask that you be fair," Haughwout said.


Hunt Jurors See Tape Of Killing

But It Was Deidre Hunt's Attorney Who Showed The Infamous Video In Court.

By Purvette A. Bryant - The Orlando Sentinel

April 15, 1998

ST. AUGUSTINE — Deidre Hunt rapidly fired three bullets into Kevin Ramsey's body from nearby, raced to a tree where he stood, held up his head and pulled the trigger - point-blank at his temple. And it took place while a video camera was rolling.

That was the substance of a well-known videotape that was shown to jurors Tuesday in a St. Augustine courtroom, where Hunt's murder trial is being held before a jury that's unfamiliar with the case.

But it wasn't the prosecution that played the key evidence in the trial of the former cocktail waitress, who is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ramsey and another Daytona Beach teenager.

Instead, it was Hunt's attorney, Carey Haughwout, who in a tactical move beat prosecutors to the punch when she showed the tape during her opening statements Tuesday.

The defense lawyer's move took Assistant State Attorney Richard Ridgway and Volusia-based Circuit Judge Ed Sanders by surprise. Sanders called a five-minute recess to confer with another judge about the tactic before allowing Haughwout to show the videotaped slaying - without sound - to jurors.

Haughwout would not talk to the media, but her tactics seemed to be aimed at trying to decrease the impact the tape might have if prosecutors were the first ones to show it to the 12 jurors and two alternates.

Jurors showed no emotion as they viewed the tape.

Hunt, 29, is on trial in connection with the 1989 deaths of Ramsey, 19, and Bryan Chase, 18, who were involved in a bungled murder-for-hire scheme that sought to kill Lisa Fotopoulos, wife of Boardwalk businessman Kosta Fotopoulos.

Prosecutors say Hunt was Kosta Fotopoulos' mistress and worked for him at Top Shots, his billiards bar. Under the prosecution's theory of the crime, Fotopoulos wanted his wife out of the way to gain about $700,000 in insurance money, plus her portion of another family business.

Hunt wanted to see the wife dead so that she could take her place in Kosta Fotopoulos' life.

During the week from Oct. 31, 1989, through Nov. 4, 1989, about six attempts were made on Lisa Fotopoulos' life, police said.

During opening statements, Haughwout told jurors that Fotopoulos pointed an AK-7 assault rifle at Hunt and forced her to shoot Ramsey while he videotaped his slaying in the woods. He told her she needed to kill someone to prove that she could hire Lisa's killer, Haughwout said.

Fotopoulos used fear and mind games to control and dominate Hunt, a young woman who had moved to Daytona Beach from the Boston area.

"There was no getting away from Kosta Fotopoulos," Haughwout said. "Lisa will tell you that. Lisa will tell you."

Haughwout referred to the early morning of Nov. 4, 1989, when Chase entered the Fotopoulos home during a staged burglary and shot Lisa Fotopoulos once in the head before his gun jammed.

That's when Kosta Fotopoulos, who had planned to kill Chase all along, sat up in bed and emptied his gun into the teen, killing him, police said.

Lisa Fotopoulos survived the attack, divorced and remarried. Kosta Fotopoulos has been convicted and sentenced to death.

In 1990, Hunt pleaded guilty to the slayings. But she was allowed to withdraw her plea in 1995 when the Florida Supreme Court determined Peter Niles, her attorney during the plea negotiations, had improperly sold her story, "Deadly Deidre" to the tabloid TV show A Current Affair.

In his opening statements Tuesday, Ridgway described Hunt as a drifter who had no money and engaged in sex with men who paid her hotel tab. When she and Fotopoulos became lovers, he soon shared his plans to kill his wife.

"She joins in with that plan," Ridgway told jurors. "She has to prove that she's capable of killing someone. She has to do it on video so that Kosta can have some insurance. They find someone[ Ramsey) who will be expendable."

In reality, the prosecutor said, Fotopoulos wanted Ramsey dead because Ramsey knew Fotopoulos funneled counterfeit money and had threatened to blackmail him.

After Tuesday's opening statements, the first witness that prosecutors called was Lisa Fotopoulos, now Lisa Psaros.

Psaros said she was asleep when Chase shot her in the head. She awoke to the loud noise the gun made and excruciating pain near her forehead.

Psaros said Hunt once approached her at Top Shots and asked what it was like to be rich.

"She'd say things like, 'Are those real diamonds?'" Psaros testified. "'Is that Gucci bag real?' It seemed like she wanted to be me. It wasn't like she was just admiring me."


A Plot Hatched in Hell

“For a plot hatched in hell, do not expect angels for witnesses.” ~ Robert Perry

Troubles were mounting in 1989 for Konstantinos “Kosta” Fotopoulos, but the Florida pool hall owner had what he thought was a foolproof plan to wrap up all of his difficulties into a single package that would make everything go away.

First of all, there was the unwelcome attention the 28-year-old Greek immigrant was receiving from the United States Secret Service. In 1987, Kosta bought $100,000 in counterfeit $100 bills and had been passing them around the southeast United States. The feds had identified him as a “person of interest” and he felt it was just a matter of time before they accumulated enough evidence for an indictment.

Complicating that situation was Kevin Ramsey, a 19-year-old ex-employee in Kosta’s pool hall, Top Shots, who was dropping hints about blackmailing Kosta with his knowledge of Kosta’s counterfeiting operation.

Then there was Fotopoulos’s failing marriage with his wife, Lisa.

Lisa had inherited a small fortune when her father died and was successfully building the family’s boardwalk business, Joyland Amusement Center, in Daytona Beach. Kosta was about $20,000 in debt in October 1989 and reliant on his wife’s largess to avoid bankruptcy and the loss of his business.

When Lisa discovered that Kosta was having an affair with 20-year-old Deidre Hunt, a bartender at Top Shots, she demanded that he end the affair and fire Deidre.

Rather than admit his faithlessness and accede to his wife’s ultimatum, Kosta denied that he was having the affair. That denial made little sense to Lisa, who had nearly wrecked her car chasing Kosta as he left Deidre’s apartment — a love den he was renting.

Lisa subsequently announced that she was going to seek a divorce. She reminded him on a daily basis that he would receive nothing when the marriage ended.

Her threats and declarations struck at the heart of Kosta’s oversized ego and forced him to take action.

Beyond the fact that it represented a violation of his marital vows, Kosta’s relationship with Deidre Hunt was bad for a number of reasons. Kosta was abusive both mentally and physically.

For Deidre, however, this was par for the course. Back home in New Hampshire, Deidre’s mother had been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, including multiple personality disorder with 11 distinct personalities. A high school dropout, Lisa had been the victim of sexual abuse when she left home and headed to Daytona Beach to start a new life after serving a six-month sentence for participating in an armed robbery.

However, like many undereducated and disadvantaged teens, Deidre found that starting over was not as easy as it sounded. When she wandered into the Top Shots looking for work, she was homeless. Her history and her desperation made her an easy target for a manipulator like Kosta.

And Kosta was merciless.

In the course of the police investigation of Fotopoulos, authorities came to believe that Kosta inflicted “ritualistic torture on Hunt by cutting her with razors, sucking her blood, throwing knifes, burning her with cigarettes and an iron, poking her with needles, and threatening her with a gun.”

During a later court hearing after Fotopoulos’s plan fell apart, the prosecutor in his case summed up how Kosta treated his mistress.

There was “a pattern of intimidation and terror inflicted upon the witness to terrorize her and break down her will ultimately and obtain complete control of her,” the State of Florida alleged. “They had an impact on [Hunt], in effect, paralyzed her, stopped her from feeling she could go to anyone or talk to anyone or escape from the circumstances, and that she had a growing paranoia that [Fotopoulos] had utter control of her life and she could not escape.”

The result of Kosta’s treatment of Deidre was that when the time came to start killing, he had a willing accomplice.

On October 20, 1989, Kosta, Deidre and Kevin Ramsey drove out to a remote shooting range where Ramsey believed he was going to be inducted into an ultra-secret “Hunter-Killer Club.” Kosta had managed to convince Ramsey that he was a contract assassin who worked for the mob and for the CIA and that by joining the Hunter-Killer Club, Ramsey would also become a hitman. Kosta claimed to have killed eight people.

Deidre later told police that she had gone with Kosta that night intending to be initiated into the club, as well. While Kosta and Deidre unloaded a .22 rifle and an AK-47 from the trunk of Kosta’s car, Ramsey was told to scout ahead to make sure there was no one around. According to Deidre, it was at that time that Kosta told her that at most two people would be making the return trip that night. He told her that if she wanted to make it through the night, she would have to kill Ramsey.

The two prospective killers caught up with Ramsey and Kosta explained how the ritual would proceed. In addition to the weapons, Kosta carried a camcorder that would document the initiation. Each of the members of the club would commit a murder that would be videotaped. The tapes would be exchanged among the members as “insurance” to prevent anyone from going to the police in the future.

Reaching a remote clearing, Kosta told Deidre to tie Kevin to a nearby tree. Possibly believing that this part of the ritual to prove his trust, Kevin was silent when Kosta started the videotape.

The 57-second tape is shocking in its brutality. The tape opens with a single flashlight shining on the face of Deidre Hunt, who stands a few yards away from the tree where Ramsey stands facing her, his arms wrapped behind him and tied.

A man’s voice, later positively identified as Kosta’s utters a single word: “OK.”

“Don’t shine it in my eyes,” Ramsey says.

The shot widens so that Deidre and Kevin can both be seen, the flashlight bathing the scene in an eerie glow. Deidre points a .22-caliber handgun at Ramsey and with just a little pause, pulls the trigger three times, a quick double-tap and follow-up shot all hitting Ramsey in the chest.

Kevin lifts one of his legs and groans.

“God,” he says. Then he slumps forward, the ropes holding him up.

Deidre next walks up to the unconscious teen, grabs him by the hair and fires a fourth shot into his temple.

The recording stops.

After turning off the video recorder, Kosta picked up his AK-47 and fired a single 7.62mm full-metal jacketed slug into Kevin’s head to ensure he was dead.

Leaving the teen’s body to the forces of nature, Kosta and Deidre left the woods and returned to Daytona Beach.

The first part of Kosta’s plan came off like clockwork. Not only had Kosta rid himself of Kevin Ramsey, who had courted death by trying to blackmail him, he had his own extortion material to hold over Deidre Hunt. Kosta intended to use that leverage to get Deidre to help assassinate his wife.

* * *

The first rays of sunshine were just beginning to turn the black skies to navy blue over the horizon on November 4, 1989 when 18-year-old Bryan Chase cut through the screen of a first-floor window in the home shared by Kosta and Lisa Fotopoulos.

Armed with a .22-caliber automatic, Chase skulked through the silent house to where Kosta and Lisa lay sleeping. Acting on the promise of a $5,000 payoff from Kosta, Chase, a troubled teen who spent his days loitering with the beach bums on the Daytona Beach arcade, was making his third attempt in as many days to kill Lisa. The previous attempts had failed when he was frightened off by neighbors and when he showed up at the home without a knife to cut the window screen.

After an angry confrontation earlier in the day with Kosta, Bryan managed to avoid the neighbors and enter the house without being seen. Entering the Fotopoulos’s bedroom, he could make out Lisa and Kosta sleeping. Bryan edged close to Lisa’s side of the bed, pointed the automatic at her head and fired. The bullet entered Lisa’s forehead and, as bullets sometimes do, skidded from one side of her skull to the other, hugging the bone and coming to rest above her left eye.

Miraculously, the shot not only failed to kill Lisa, it did only minor damage to her brain. Bryan squeezed the trigger a second time, but the weapon had jammed and no shot was fired.

Then it was time for Kosta’s part. Reaching beneath the bed, he pulled out a 9mm SIG-Sauer P226 and blew Bryan Chase away. The teenage, would-be hitman died on the floor of the bedroom.

Kosta’s 911 call revealed just the right mixture of fear, adrenaline and panic that a homeowner who is forced to shoot an intruder would have.

The preliminary determination by the police was just what Kosta had hoped: Lisa was shot by a burglar who was in turn killed by Kosta. The plan hadn’t worked perfectly, of course. Lisa was still alive, but that was a problem for another day. As she lay in her hospital bed — doctors would be unable to remove the bullet for fear of causing more damage — Lisa told police what she remembered about the attack.

The evening had started normally, she said, with Kosta heading out to the backyard to bury a large black bag just before they retired for the night. Lisa said she didn’t consider that unusual because Kosta was a conspiracy “nut” who was constantly burying this or that.

She told the police about the pending divorce.

The next thing she knew, she was awakened by a searing pain in her head and Kosta was talking on the phone to police, telling them that he had killed an intruder in his home.

Meanwhile, Kosta and Deidre were discussing the possibility to delivering a bomb hidden in a bouquet of flowers to hospital.

“Lisa had to die,” Deidre later told prosecutors. “She just had to die.”

Back at the scene of the crime, investigators were beginning to question whether Chase’s death wasn’t part of a larger plan. Lisa had mentioned a curious incident that occurred about a week before when a young man attempted to rob her at the Joyland Amusement Center. Armed with a pistol, the man tried to force Lisa into a small, windowless room at the arcade, but she escaped by darting between his legs. The would-be robber fled without taking anything.

Looking at the clues, police noted that Bryan managed to cut through the one window on the ground level that was not connected to an alarm system. They also questioned why a burglar would shoot a sleeping woman yet not fire at the homeowner with a gun.

As a burglar, Chase was unconvincing. Police noted that he had to walk past an expensive stereo system and the bedrooms of Lisa’s mother and brother before reaching her bedroom.

Before closing the case, investigators decided to look a little deeper.

They didn’t have to look very hard.

When the newspapers broke the story of how Kosta had killed an intruder in his home, 20-year-old Mike Cox, a friend of Deidre Hunt and Bryan Chase, was on the phone that day to police. He told investigators how Deidre had introduced him to Kosta who offered him $10,000 to kill his wife. Cox was convinced that he would have ended up like Chase.

Armed with this information, the Daytona Beach police brought Deidre in for an interview. Over the course of two hours, Deidre told everything she knew, including how Kevin Ramsey was killed.

She also revealed that Lisa had been targeted by hitmen five times over the past several weeks but that every attempt had failed. Kosta had wanted her murdered at a Halloween party, but the crowd scared off that would-be killer and another time the hitman’s car would not start, throwing a wrench into the plan to stage a car accident and kill her there.

Out of curiosity, the police dug up the black bag Kosta buried the night of Chase’s attack. Inside it was the AK-47 and .22 used to kill Kevin Ramsey.

Police quickly arrested Kosta Fotopoulos and after Deidre led authorities to Ramsey’s remains, she and Kosta were charged with two counts of first degree murder and numerous conspiracy charges.

The already-bizarre case still had a few surprises left, however.

Faced with the damning videotape, Deidre decided to throw herself on the mercy of the court and in May 1990, she withdrew her not guilty plea and pleaded guilty to two capital murder charges. The judge agreed to hold off on the penalty phase until after she testified against Kosta. By cooperating, Deidre hoped to avoid a date with Old Sparky, Florida’s electric chair.

“The prosecutor reiterated that the State was in no way waiving its intent to seek the death penalty, that there had been no backroom negotiations and no understanding that the State would not seek the death penalty,” the Florida Supreme Court would write later. “Hunt’s attorney explained that he had discussed the plea at length with Hunt and that they both agreed that ‘this plea and her offer to testify and cooperate in view of the facts and circumstances is really the only sensible and logical choice under this scenario.’”

However, as Kosta’s trial grew nearer, Deidre balked at testifying and the state moved ahead with its sentencing hearing. Over the course of several days, the judge listened to mitigating and aggravating testimony about whether Deidre was a blood-thirsty, ice-in-the-veins killer or an abused and emotionally troubled young woman.

The highlight of the sentencing hearing was when Deidre’s mother took the stand and said that she did not want her daughter to get the death penalty, but, shrugging her shoulders as if writing off a lost bauble, Carol Hunt added, “if it happens, it happens.”

When her time came, Deidre took responsibility for her acts and expressed remorse.

She stood before the judge in an orange jail jumpsuit, quivering with nervous energy, repeatedly wiping her palms on her clothes. Then for 13 minutes, Deidre told her side of things.

“I take responsibility for my actions but I was a non-willing participant in these crimes,” she said tearfully. She maintained that Kosta had left her no choice. “If I had not done it, I would have died at the hands of Kosta Fotopoulos.”

Killing Kevin Ramsey was the “most disgusting, repulsive scene I ever saw in my life,” she said. “But I chose life, even with the horror, terror, fear and pain, and disgusting and degrading torture at this man’s hands.”

Finally, to the families of Ramsey and Chase, Deidre apologized.

“I want to express my sympathy and total compassion for what you’ve been exposed to.”

The judge was unmoved and sentenced her to death twice.

With nothing left to lose, Deidre testified against Kosta, who was also convicted and sentenced to death.

A murder-for-hire plot always generates press, and the freakish case of Deidre Hunt and Konstantinos Fotopoulos attracted the worst. Throw in a lawyer with a twisted sense of ethics and the result is Deidre Hunt being allowed to retract her guilty plea, a new trial, and a release from death row.

It happened in 1990, shortly after Deidre and Kosta had been convicted and sent off to prison.

Even with her guilty pleas, Deidre’s death sentences were automatically appealed. Peter Niles, the court-appointed attorney who had represented Deidre in court was handling her appeal and contacted the warden at Broward Correctional Institution to arrange an attorney-client meeting.

He told the warden that he had made arrangements with the prosecutor and the judge to videotape Deidre at BCI regarding testimony concerning Kosta. Niles indicated he would bring a law clerk and a cameraman to assist with the videotaping. The visit was approved.

However, when Niles and his crew sat down with Deidre, he advised his client that they were not working on her case, but the people he had brought with him were from the tabloid TV show “A Current Affair.”

Niles told Deidre that he was not being compensated for bringing the crew into the prison, and that she would not be paid for the interview. In fact, Niles had been promised $5,000 from the show’s producers if he set up the interview and a story subsequently aired. The deal had been in the works for six months, meaning that Niles was negotiating with “A Current Affair” at the same time he was representing Deidre Hunt before the state.

The piece ran under the headline “Deadly Deidre.”

When the revelation surfaced in 1993, the judge who heard Deidre’s guilty pleas had no choice but to grant her motion to rescind them.

“This court is legally obligated to find that when Mr. Niles counseled the defendant to enter guilty pleas, he was operating under a conflict of interest,” the judge ruled.

Of course, everyone except Deidre Hunt was livid.

“Niles engaged in extremely serious violations of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar with lies and misrepresentations to his client, as well as to BCI, the public, and the legal profession as a whole through a sensational and derogatory media interview,” the Florida Supreme Court wrote, suspending the lawyer for a year.

“This is absolutely maddening,” said Stephen Cotter, spokesman for the state attorney’s office. “When it’s based on defense misconduct, that’s when the blood really starts boiling.”

Deidre Hunt went to trial in 1996. She was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

MarkGribben.com


District Court of Appeal of Florida
Fifth District

Hunt v. State

Deidre M. HUNT v. STATE of Florida.

No. 5D98-1904.

February 18, 2000

Carey Haughwout, of Tierney & Haughwout, of Tierney & Haughwout, West Palm Beach, for Appellant. Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kellie A. Nielan, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.

This is another appeal arising out of a series of crimes perpetrated by the defendant, Deidre M. Hunt, through her association with Konstantinos X. Fotopoulos.   See Hunt v. State, 613 So.2d 893 (Fla.1992);  Fotopoulos v. State, 608 So.2d 784 (Fla.1992), cert. denied, 508 U.S. 924, 113 S.Ct. 2377, 124 L.Ed.2d 282 (1993).

In the Summer of 1989, Deidre M. Hunt [“Hunt”], then twenty years old, moved to the Daytona Beach area from New Hampshire to live with her boyfriend, but the relationship soon ended.   Hunt became acquainted with Lori Henderson [“Henderson”] and Tony Calderoni.   After a brief sexual relationship, Tony Calderoni rented Hunt an apartment and provided her a job at “Top Shots,” a pool hall he managed for the owner, Konstantinos X. Fotopoulos [“Fotopoulos”].   Soon thereafter, Hunt began an affair with Fotopoulos, who in turn rented her an apartment, gave her money, and bought her clothes.

Fotopoulos was married to Lisa Fotopoulos, and lived with Lisa, her mother, and brother, in her mother's home.   Lisa owned a business on the boardwalk in Daytona Beach called “Joyland Amusement Center.”   Sometime towards the end of October 1989, Lisa learned of Fotopoulos' affair with Hunt and she demanded that Fotopoulos fire Hunt from Top Shots.   When he denied the affair, she announced her plan to file for divorce.

On November 1, 1989, while working at Joyland, Lisa was attacked by a man later identified as Teja James.   James pointed a gun at Lisa and told her he would shoot her if she did not heed his command.   Lisa, however, managed to escape and notified the police.   Lisa identified James' photograph and the search began for his capture.

Four days later, Lisa awoke to a loud noise.   All she could remember was seeing Fotopoulos with a gun in his hand and a young man, later identified as Bryan Chase, lying shot at the foot of her bed with his finger on the trigger of a gun.   Fotopoulos had shot Chase several times after shooting Lisa in the head.

The police responded to the scene and initially classified the crime as a home invasion gone wrong and a self-defense shooting by Fotopoulos.   The police soon became suspicious, however, that the incident was somehow related to the events at Joyland.   As part of their investigation, the police contacted Hunt and Henderson.   While at the police station, Hunt confessed to her involvement during an audio-taped interview.

She informed them of the extent of Fotopoulos' criminal activity, including counterfeiting, stealing cars and bank robberies.   Hunt further told the police that Fotopoulos was a “trained assassin,” had tortured then killed approximately eight people and owned numerous weapons, including assault rifles, guns, and grenades.

Hunt explained that the elaborate plans to kill Lisa had begun with another murder, that of Kevin Ramsey [“Ramsey”] a month earlier.   Ramsey was a former Fotopoulos employee whom Fotopoulos believed was blackmailing him over his counterfeiting enterprise.   The police were not aware that Ramsey was missing.

Hunt detailed the events of Ramsey's murder as follows:  Fotopoulos, Ramsey and Hunt went out to the woods to an old rifle range.   Fotopoulos tied Ramsey to a tree, gave a .22 pistol to Hunt, pointed his AK-47 automatic rifle at her head and demanded she shoot Ramsey.   She shot him several times.   Hunt informed the police that Fotopoulos videotaped the shooting and still had the tape in his possession.   Hunt then guided the police to Ramsey's severely decomposed body.

Hunt's friend, Henderson, also testified at trial.   Henderson testified that she learned of the plan to kill Lisa from Hunt, who also told her the couple planned to move into Lisa's house after her death.   Henderson testified that prior to the Ramsey murder, Hunt informed her that Fotopoulos planned for her to kill someone so he could in turn videotape it for protection.   Hunt also informed Henderson that it would be Ramsey.

Hunt presented expert testimony that Hunt's mother suffered from multiple personality disorder with eleven separate personalities.   She also presented testimony, based upon her childhood experiences and her relationship with Fotopoulos, that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and battered woman syndrome.   Hunt's experts testified that Fotopoulos inflicted ritualistic torture on Hunt by cutting her with razors, sucking her blood, throwing knifes, burning her with cigarettes and an iron, poking her with needles, and threatening her with a gun.   One expert testified that as a result of her mental illness, Hunt did not understand the consequences of her actions and she believed she had no alternative but to obey Fotopoulos.

Finally, Hunt published admissions made by the State in the Fotopoulos trial.   In particular, Hunt published statements by State Attorney John Tanner describing Fotopoulos' relationship with Hunt as a “significant beginning of a pattern of intimidation and terror inflicted on the witness to terrorize her and break down her will ultimately and obtain complete control of her, ultimately resulting in her carrying out the various crimes.”   Tanner also said that Hunt's testimony was to be introduced in the trial against Fotopoulos “for the purpose to show a clear pattern of physical assault, abuse, intimidation, and coercion-and the direct and primary cause for Deidre Hunt's criminal activity.”   The State also asserted in the Fotopoulos trial that his threats “had an impact on her;  in effect, paralyzed her;  stopped her from feeling she could go to anyone or talk to anyone or escape from the circumstances”  Tanner described “a continuing pattern of domination, threat, and intimidation, which ultimately deprived Deidre Hunt of the ability to even resist, let alone disobey.”   The jury returned a verdict finding Hunt guilty as charged.

In the judgment and sentencing order, the lower court made the following findings:

The defendant murdered Kevin Ramsey execution-style while his hands were bound behind his back and he was tied to a tree.   The evidence at trial showed the defendant murdered Ramsey calmly, after cool reflection, and that the murder of Ramsey was not an act prompted by emotional frenzy, panic, or a fit of rage.   The evidence showed the defendant and codefendant Fotopoulos had a prearranged design to murder Ramsey.   The videotape introduced at trial showed the defendant shooting the victim three times in the chest and once in the head at point blank range.   According to the defendant's videotaped statement introduced at the guilt phase of trial when she went to the woods with codefendant Fotopoulos and Ramsey and she believed she was only going to shoot around Ramsey's feet while he was tied to a tree.   She stated that once they stopped the car defendant Fotopoulos sent Ramsey ahead to see if anyone was in the area.   Codefendant Fotopoulos then told her before they left the car that she was going to murder Ramsey.   The three then walked a short distance into the woods, Ramsey's hands were tied behind his back and he was tied to a tree.   Codefendant Fotopoulos then turned on the video camera and a flashlight.   The beginning of the videotape shows the defendant standing near Ramsey.   She tells codefendant Fotopoulos not to shine the flashlight in her eyes.   Codefendant Fotopoulos adjusts the light and focuses the camera.   He tells the defendant to step closer to Ramsey and she does so.   When codefendant Fotopoulos tells her to begin, the defendant calmly pulls a .22 caliber pistol from her jacket pocket and shoots the victim.   By the defendant's own admission she knew she was going to carry out an execution-style murder at least from the time she left the car.   She had previously expressed to her friends that she was willing to do this execution-style killing when the time came.   The Court finds this is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of heightened premeditation and deliberate ruthlessness.

The court sentenced Hunt on count I of the Indictment for the first-degree murder of Kevin Ramsey to life imprisonment with twenty-five years before the possibility of parole, and to life imprisonment with twenty-five years before the possibility of parole on count II for the first-degree murder of Brian Chase, to run consecutively with count I. The court subsequently sentenced Hunt on the remainder of her offenses:  on count III of the Indictment, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, the court sentenced Hunt to thirty years in prison, to run concurrently with count IV;  and the court sentenced Hunt to thirty years in prison on count IV, solicitation to commit the first-degree murder of Lisa Fotopoulos, to run concurrently with count III.

Hunt has raised two related issues on appeal, namely that the lower court erred in refusing to give either of two requested jury instructions directed at her contention that the only reason she killed Kevin Ramsey was that Fotopoulos had a gun pointed at her head and that she killed Ramsey to avoid being killed.   The first of these proposed instructions was designed to supplement the standard instruction on premeditation to include the requirement that premeditation be uninfluenced by a dominating passion sufficient to obscure reason.   The second was an instruction that necessity is a defense to homicide.1

We find no merit to Hunt's claim that she was entitled to a “necessity” instruction.   We agree with the State that the necessity defense does not apply in this case;  rather the facts support a claim of duress.   The Supreme Court described the difference in United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394, 100 S.Ct. 624, 62 L.Ed.2d 575 (1980):

Common law historically distinguished between the defenses of duress and necessity.   Duress was said to excuse criminal conduct where the actor was under an unlawful threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury, which threat caused the actor to engage in conduct violating the literal terms of the criminal law.   While the defense of duress covered the situation where the coercion had its source in the actions of other human beings, the defense of necessity, or choice of evils, traditionally covered the situation where physical forces beyond the actor's control rendered illegal conduct the lesser of two evils.   Thus, where A destroyed a dike because B threatened to kill him if he did not, A would argue that he acted under duress, whereas if A destroyed the dike in order to protect more valuable property from flooding, A could claim a defense of necessity.   See generally LaFave & Scott 374-384.

Presumably, Hunt prefers “necessity” over duress because duress is not a defense to homicide.  Bailey, 444 U.S. at 409-10, 100 S.Ct. 624.   In Wright v. State, 402 So.2d 493 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981), the third district held on similar facts that duress is not available as a defense to intentional homicide, including second degree murder.   At her trial, Wright requested the jury to be instructed as follows:

I charge you that if you believe from the evidence that at the time of the death of Barbie Hall the defendant Dorothy Wright was then subjected to real, present danger, existent at the time, imminent and not to be avoided, or under all the circumstances shown in the evidence the defendant Dorothy Wright had reasonable grounds to believe that such danger was real, imminent and impending and did so believe at the time of the shooting of Barbara Hall and that the defendant Dorothy Wright shot Barbara Hall because of such belief, then you may find Dorothy Wright not guilty of this charge.

Wright, 402 So.2d at 497.   The trial court denied the instruction.   The third district affirmed, and “unhesitatingly” reaffirmed the rule that duress is not a defense to an intentional homicide.  Id. at 498.   In so holding, the third district commented on the “paucity” of cases which had addressed the issue, indicating its hope that the lack of cases indicated a public policy against the defense as it applied to murder and reflected “the rule that duress will never justify the killing of an innocent third party accords with the mores of our society.”  Id. Finally, the third district articulated the rationale behind the unavailability of the defense to murder:

The common law has steadfastly refused to recognize any compulsion, even the threat of death, as sufficient to excuse taking the life of another․  Legal recognition of duress as a defense to crimes other than homicide necessarily assumes a working hypothesis that a harm or crime of greater magnitude is avoided when the subjected person succumbs to the duress.   This hypothesis disappears when duress is sought to be invoked as a defense in a homicide case.

Wright, 402 So.2d at 498 (quoting Jackson v. State, 558 S.W.2d 816, 820 (Mo.Ct.App.1977)).

See also 1 Charles E. Torcia, Wharton's Criminal Law § 90 (15th ed.1993);  Wayne LaFave & Austin Scott, Jr., Criminal Law § 77, at 585 (1st ed.1972).

 Hunt's second contention is that the trial court reversibly erred when it opted for the standard jury instruction on premeditation instead of her proposed jury instruction that included the notion of a “dominating passion.”   In essence, she contends that there was evidence at trial that Hunt's fear of Fotopoulos “prevented her from forming the necessary premeditation” to sustain a charge of first-degree murder.

In support of her theory, Hunt relies on language in Forehand v. State, 126 Fla. 464, 171 So. 241 (1936) and Tien Wang v. State, 426 So.2d 1004 (Fla. 3d DCA), review denied, 434 So.2d 889 (Fla.1983):

The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the premeditation is not influenced by a dominating fear sufficient to cloud reason.

In Forehand, the supreme court reversed the defendant's conviction for first-degree murder upon finding insufficient evidence of premeditation and remanded for a new trial to determine whether the defendant's acts constituted murder in the second degree or manslaughter.  Forehand, 171 So. at 244.   In so holding, the supreme court recognized that premeditation is the essential element of first-degree murder but that premeditation may be negated by a finding of what is today referred to as “heat of passion:”

It is also true that a well-defined purpose to kill may be induced, compelled, or constrained by anger of such degree as for the moment to cloud the reason and momentarily obscure what might otherwise be a deliberate purpose by its impelling influence․

 * * *

As the element of premeditation is an essential ingredient of the crime of murder in the first degree, it is necessary that the fact of premeditation uninfluenced or uncontrolled by a dominating passion sufficient to obscure the reason based upon an adequate provocation must be established beyond a reasonable doubt before it can be said that the accused was guilty of murder in the first degree as defined by our statute.

Forehand, 171 So. at 243.

In Wang, the third district quoted the above passage from Forehand to support its conclusion that the evidence of an altercation in that case between the defendant and the victim was equally consistent with “heat of passion” as it was with premeditation, precluding a conviction for first-degree murder.   Wang, 426 So.2d at 1007;  see also Clay v. State, 424 So.2d 139, 141 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982)(evidence did not sustain conviction for first-degree murder where the defendant operated under a “dominating passion” and fear of the victim when she killed him), review denied, 434 So.2d 889 (Fla.1983).

Hunt requested the following instruction, tracking the language in Forehand:

As the element of premeditation is an essential ingredient of the crime of murder in the first degree, it is necessary that the fact of premeditation uninfluenced or uncontrolled by a dominating passion sufficient to obscure reason based upon an adequate provocation must be established beyond a reasonable doubt before it can be said that the defendant is guilt of murder in the first degree.

The State, however, argued that the special instruction was confusing and unnecessary since the standard jury instructions on premeditation and the instructions on justifiable and excusable homicide included similar language and adequately instructed the jury.   Accepting the State's argument, the trial court rejected Hunt's proposed instructions and gave the justifiable and excusable homicide instruction and the standard jury instruction on premeditation:

“Killing with Premeditation” is killing after consciously deciding to do so.   The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing.   The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing.   The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant.   The premeditated intent to kill must be formed before the killing.

The question of premeditation is a question of fact to be determined by you from the evidence.   It will be sufficient proof of premeditation if the circumstances of the killing and the conduct of the accused convince you beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of premeditation at the time of the killing.

In Kilgore v. State, 688 So.2d 895, 897 (Fla.1996), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 832, 118 S.Ct. 103, 139 L.Ed.2d 58 (1997), the supreme court addressed a similar situation.   There, the defendant appealed the trial court's denial of his special “heat of passion” exception to premeditation.   In that case, the defendant was convicted of the first-degree murder of his prison mate homosexual lover.  Kilgore, 688 So.2d at 896.   The State presented testimony that the defendant laid in wait outside the lover's cell and stabbed him three times with a shank knife when he returned.  Id. at 896-97.   After stabbing his lover, the defendant poured caustic liquid in his lover's face and mouth.  Id. at 897.   He immediately confessed to authorities that “I stabbed the bitch.”  Id.

At his trial, the defendant requested a special “heat of passion” jury instruction which provided:

An intentional unlawful killing is not premeditated murder if it was committed while the defendant was in the heat of passion brought on by sudden provocation sufficient to produce in the mind of an ordinary person the highest degree of rage, anger, or resentment that is so intense as to overcome the use of ordinary judgment thereby rendering a normal person incapable of reflection.

Id. at 898.   The trial court rejected the defendant's special instruction, opting instead, as in this case, to issue standard jury instructions on premeditation and “heat of passion” in the context of excusable homicide.  Id. at 897.   The defendant appealed, arguing that his special instruction would have explained “heat of passion” as a negating factor of premeditation and that by not so instructing the jury the trial court denied his right to due process.  Id. The supreme court, however, disagreed, finding the standard jury instructions sufficient to instruct the jury on “heat of passion” and premeditation:

Kilgore avers that he was denied due process under both the state and federal constitutions when his request for a special heat-of-passion instruction was denied.   The special instruction would have explained heat of passion in the context of intentional homicide.   Essentially, the instruction would have clarified that a person acting under the heat of passion is, in some circumstances, incapable of premeditation.   Instead, the trial judge utilized the standard jury instructions.   Included in these instruction was a discussion of heat of passion in the context of excusable homicide.   Further, the requirement of premeditation in a first degree conviction was repeatedly emphasized.   This Court has acknowledged that the standard jury instructions are sufficient to explain premeditation.  Spencer v. State, 645 So.2d 377, 382 (Fla.1994).   We also have ruled that the trial court does not necessarily abuse its discretion in denying a special heat-of-passion instruction.   Kramer v. State, 619 So.2d 274, 277 (Fla.1993).   After viewing these facts, we conclude that there is no indication that the trial court erred by refusing the requested instruction.   The necessary elements of premeditation were presented with the standard instruction and the trial court was well within its prerogative to refuse a separate, and possibly confusing, instruction.

Id. at 898.

As in Kilgore, the jury instructions in this case included the standard jury instruction on premeditation and a discussion of “heat of passion” in the instruction on excusable homicide.2  While Hunt's proposed instruction, like Kilgore's, may have elaborated on the effect that extreme emotion might have on the ability to premeditate, the convoluted language taken from the Forehand opinion may have led to confusion.   The trial court was well within its prerogative to deny the proposed instruction.

In recognition of Kilgore, Hunt urges that in this particular case, because the court also instructed the jury that coercion is not a defense to homicide, an instruction on “heat of passion” was required.   We disagree.   This instruction correctly informed the jury that coercion would not excuse homicide;  it does not suggest that it cannot affect premeditation.   The question whether Hunt made a “conscious decision” to kill Kevin Ramsey after time for “reflection” in light of her emotional state is appropriately a matter for argument to the jury.   Here it was fully explored during closing by counsel for Hunt. Accordingly, we affirm appellant's judgment and sentence.3

AFFIRMED.

FOOTNOTES

1.   We note that the two requested instructions appear inherently inconsistent.  “Necessity” assumes a conscious weighing of competing harms whereas the lack of premeditation defense assumes the inability to reason at all.

2.   See also State v. Nargashian, 26 R.I. 299, 58 A. 953 (1904)(B intentionally killed C because A with axe in hand threatened to kill B unless B killed C;  court found B guilty of murder, not manslaughter, and rejected B's argument “that fear, like passion, may so cloud the mind as to eliminate malice.”);   LaFave & Scott, supra.

3.   As her last point, Hunt urges that she was sentenced in violation of North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2089, 23 L.Ed.2d 656 (1969), for the attempted murder of Lisa Fotopoulos.   In light of the overall change in the sentencing scheme after elimination of the death sentence, we find no violation.

GRIFFIN, J.

JACOBUS, B., Associate Judge, concurs.DAUKSCH, J., concurs in result only.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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