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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Lawyer's antics on display at trial
His client, Ralph Governor, 24, is charged with armed burglary.
By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published May 11, 2007
DADE CITY - William Chavis recognized the men with the guns.
He knew them from his high school days in Brevard County, and they stayed at his house in Meadow Pointe for several nights in early 2005.
Chavis, 23, testified Thursday that Ralph Governor and Ronald Donovan showed up again on Jan. 22, 2005, sometime after 11:30 p.m., asking him to go to Ybor City.
Chavis declined. He was already heading for bed - and under a curfew as a condition of his probation. He handed the men a phone to call for a ride and closed the door, leaving them outside.
As he waited in the living room for them to leave, he heard a vehicle pull into his driveway. And when he got up to peer through the glass of his front door, he saw the two walking up with guns, he testified.
Chavis retrieved a shotgun from his bedroom. In a chaotic gunfight, he struck Donovan in the back with bird shot, but not before Donovan allegedly fired a bullet into Chavis' chest.
Governor, 24, of Merritt Island, is on trial this week, charged with armed burglary in the incident. Donovan faces trial in August.
But the stakes of the case against Governor - he could get a life sentence if convicted - were often overshadowed by the high jinks in Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa's courtroom Thursday.
Governor's attorney, Daniel Ciener of Merritt Island, put his fiery style on full display, vigorously arguing every detail of the trial on his client's behalf while frequently irritating prosecutor Stacey Sumner and finally the judge, too.
At least three times Ciener asked for hearings outside the jury's presence to question investigators' tactics and witnesses' knowledge.
He frequently objected during Sumner's questioning of Chavis, and Ciener's cross examination of the victim took several hours.
Siracusa chastised him for talking over other people, so much so that the court reporter could not keep up.
"Hold on," the judge said at one interruption, clapping his hands. "Stop. You can't even stop talking over me."
He also warned Ciener about his facial expressions - raising his eyebrows or furrowing his brow at witnesses' answers.
Ciener kept his good nature and even offered a remedy: "I'd be willing to wear something over my head," he told the judge, who declined.
Outside court, Chavis said he has recovered from his injuries. He completed his probation on drug offenses and now works as a wine consultant. He's engaged to be married.
Before the shooting, he said, Governor and Donovan had been his friends .
"I let these guys in my house, and three weeks later they come back to rob me," Chavis said. "It's a nightmare."