Jarelle Glenn walks out of the Lee County Courthouse a free man after being released on the State of Florida's Stand Your Ground Law Monday, Oct. 14, 2013.
(Photo: Sarah Coward, The Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jarelle Glenn was jubilant Monday at his exoneration from a second-degree murder charge under Florida's Stand Your Ground law and looked to start a new life.
"A new life, a new life in Christ," he said, after a judge ruled Monday that he acted "reasonably" when he shot and killed 25-year-old Tommy Johnson II in 2011, because he feared for his life and the lives of two companions.
"God is the reason why I'm free today," Glenn said after leaving his orange prison jumpsuit and chains behind and walking out of the courtroom a free man. He hugged his attorney, Tracey Redd, beaming.
But Justin Aho, a friend of Johnson, didn't hear an answer to his prayers in Judge Frank Porter's ruling. He walked out of the courtroom, stunned, stared straight ahead and couldn't speak for a few moments. Then he said the judge's decision sends the wrong message.
"I just think that this ruling basically makes 80 percent of the country think that in the state of Florida it's easy to get off with murder," Aho said.
Glenn, 26, of Fort Myers, had been charged with second-degree murder for killing Johnson on March 25, 2011, at the Westchase Apartments.
The Stand Your Ground Law allows somebody in fear of his or her life the right to use deadly force. The law garnered national attention last year when George Zimmerman, a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer, considered using it to justify killing unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman ended up using a standard self-defense argument, and was found not guilty.
Glenn, 26, had been charged with shooting Johnson, 25, during a confrontation outside the apartment he shared with Demetris Beckworth - Glenn's ex-girlfriend and Johnson's sister. The confrontation stemmed from a fight Glenn and Beckworth had the night before the shooting.
Porter paraphrased from his written ruling as he went step-by-step through the chronology of the shooting and his reasons for finding that the Stand Your Ground Law applies to the case.
On the night of the shooting, Glenn was tracked down by Beckworth through her GPS and was threatened with physical harm by Beckworth's cousin and others through text, phone call and verbally, the judge said.
When Glenn went to the apartment he shared with Beckworth to get his clothes, he was confronted by Johnson, his brother and others among a group of eight men. Glenn and two companions, who remained in a vehicle, heard the popping of a trunk, and feared someone in the group was getting a gun, the judge said.
Then Johnson and two of the men advanced aggressively, holding their waistbands as if they were about to draw guns. It was found later that Johnson wasn't carrying a gun, but "the fact no weapon was found on the deceased does not negate the impression he or his friends possessed one," Porter said.
"The court finds that the defendant proved by a preponderance of evidence that he acted reasonably" when he shot Johnson, he said.
"We are obviously thrilled at the outcome," Redd said. "We think it's the right decision. Obviously the emotions are mixed. Both men's lives have been changed forever, and our heart goes out to the decedent's family."
Nothing changes the fact that Glenn killed his friend, Aho said. "I pray God will give me the strength to forgive him for this."
Mary Wozniak, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press