© St. Petersburg Times, published September 21, 2002
TAMPA -- A judge sentenced David Kitt to two consecutive life terms Friday after jurors found him guilty of gunning down a Hyde Park businessman.
The jury deliberated for just under two hours before convicting 24-year-old Kitt of first-degree murder in the April 22, 2000, shooting of Michael Foley.
Kitt was cruising the Hyde Park area in a stolen Jeep Cherokee. He pulled up to rob Foley, 34, who was walking home after socializing with friends at the 42nd Street Bistro on Howard Avenue.
The prosecution's star witness was Jacob Nunez, Kitt's companion on the night of the murder. He testified that Kitt opened fire when Foley tried to flee. The defense portrayed Nunez, who has not been charged, as the shooter.
Kitt left a trail of damning evidence implicating himself, however. During a surreptitiously recorded conversation with Nunez, Kitt admitted to the shooting. He did the same to acquaintances and cellmates. And while awaiting trial, he wrote letters trying to drum up witnesses to lie for him, expressing his desire to kill Nunez, and saying he'd gotten rid of the gun.
"He was not the brightest bulb in the box," defense attorney Daniel Hernandez told jurors of Kitt, who has the nickname "Goof Dog." Hernandez portrayed his client as an easily manipulated patsy of witnesses who lied for the state to soften punishment for criminal charges of their own.
If Kitt was dull-witted, countered prosecutor Jay Pruner, who better to commit an "ill-conceived, poorly executed and tragically concluded" crime?
The evidence pointed to a stupid criminal, Pruner said. "If that's Mr. Kitt's mantle, so be it," he said. "He wears it well."
Apart from the murder charge, the jury convicted Kitt for attempted robbery with a firearm and three counts of car theft. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Rex Barbas sentenced him to two life terms without possibility of parole.
"We're just so relieved," said Stacie Sanford, Foley's former girlfriend. "I think the main thing is not to have (Kitt) on the street to hurt anybody else."
Kitt was raised by his grandmother and dropped out of the sixth grade.
"He was someone who didn't have any structure as a kid," said Hernandez, noting that Kitt had a history of drug abuse that contributed to his mental limitations.
The court, however, found Kitt competent to stand trial. He could read and write. Speaking of Kitt's incriminating jailhouse letters, Hernandez said: "Ironically, his ability to write helped seal his doom."
Hernandez said he would appeal.
-- Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org