Defendant sheds clothes to challenge his accuser

Published May 12, 2007

DADE CITY - Standing in front of a jury Friday, Ralph Governor wore only a white undershirt, knee-length gym shorts and black socks. Slowly, he turned around so they could see his legs and arms.

Governor, 24, of Merritt Island is charged with armed burglary in a 2005 home invasion in Meadow Pointe. He could get life in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Daniel Ciener tested the story of victim William Chavis, who was shot in the chest during the gunfight at his home on Ox-Eye Court.

From the witness stand, Chavis testified he knew Governor from his high school days in Brevard County and had let him stay in his home weeks before the incident.

Late the night of Jan. 23, 2005, Governor and another acquaintance, Ronald Donovan, came to Chavis' front door asking him to go out. Chavis declined.

Soon they reappeared outside the front door, this time with guns.

Chavis testified that he ran to retrieve a shotgun from his bedroom and heard his front door being kicked in.

He said he returned to find Governor and a third unknown man running out of the house. Then, Chavis said, Donovan shot him in the chest with a handgun.

Chavis returned fire, hitting Donovan with bird shot, then collapsed.

Ciener's repeated query of the victim: How did he know Governor was one of the assailants?

Chavis said he recognized him, knew his face and knew he had tattoos somewhere on his body.

And that's why Ciener had his client undress and show jurors his bare skin.

No tattoos.

With that, the defense rested.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at 352 521-6521 or moorhead@sptimes.com.