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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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Convictions are downgraded in '04 fatal bar fight
By Times Staff Writer
Published March 1, 2008
TAMPA - The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal on Friday reduced the convictions against a man serving life in prison for killing another in a 2004 bar fight.
Christopher Bellamy of Gainesville was originally convicted of second-degree murder with a weapon in the death of David Anderson and attempted second-degree murder with a weapon in the stabbing of David Decker. He was also convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for injuring David DeMedici.
The appeals court reduced Bellamy's murder and attempted murder convictions to manslaughter with a weapon and attempted manslaughter with a weapon, saying the state didn't prove the intent needed to support a murder charge. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing.
The case began in October 2004 when all four men were at New World Brewery in Ybor City and Bellamy's cousin's punk band, Nuclear Beer, was playing. When the band invited patrons, including Decker and Joseph Paez, to sing on a microphone the band had set up, Decker kept stepping on a cable running from the microphone to the sound board, according to court records. Bellamy tried to move Decker, who was drunk, and Decker's friend, Paez, took umbrage.
The two began to fight, which grew into a "chaotic brawl," court records say.
At some point, Bellamy, 39, pulled a knife from his pocket.
Decker claimed he was stabbed while he had Bellamy in a bear hug, while Bellamy claimed he used the knife only after a crowd fell on him.
Bellamy testified he was just trying to get people off him. Anderson was stabbed in the chest and died two hours later.
The appeals court opinion stated no one testified to seeing Bellamy stab Anderson. It also said Bellamy didn't know Anderson or Decker.
"We conclude that while the state's evidence may have proved an 'impulsive overreaction to an attack or injury,' it was insignificant to prove ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent," Judge Patricia Kelly wrote.