The father of a youth killed in the 1996 crash accepts the decision against a new trial, but with a very heavy heart.
By DAVID KARP
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001
TAMPA -- Les Farr knew something was wrong when State Attorney Mark Ober asked him and his wife to come to the courthouse Monday.
As he sat across from Ober, Farr heard him confirm his fear. The three young adults, convicted in 1997 of causing the death of Farr's son, Kevin, and two other 18-year-olds on a dark country road, would go free.
"We know they are guilty and are not getting punished for it," Farr said. "In my heart, I know they are guilty."
Ober dropped the case Monday against Nissa Baillie, Christopher Cole and Thomas Miller, who were accused of pulling up a stop sign in rural Hillsborough and causing a fatal car crash in February 1996 that killed three teenagers.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned the conviction in March and ordered a new trial. Ober decided not to take the charges to trial again.
"I disagreed with it, but there was nothing I could do about it," Farr said.
In their meeting, Ober told Farr that he could not go to trial without a witness, Larry Jarrard, whose testimony linked the defendants to the theft of the stop sign. After his testimony, Jarrard said he had lied on the stand.
"I didn't think he was that crucial," Farr said of Jarrard. "I thought the case was pretty good without him."
"Of course," he added, "I'm not a lawyer."
Ober declined to discuss his decision Tuesday. He issued a one-sentence statement about it on Monday.
Farr said Ober listened to him and his wife for about an hour; one of Ober's assistants hugged the couple when they left.
"He talked to us directly," Farr said. "I was impressed with him, even though I didn't like what he had to say."
Farr now wants to put the case behind him. His son no longer watches the news, and he doesn't like to explain to people how his son died. But it comes up in unexpected ways.
People ask how many children he has, and Farr tells them four. He doesn't explain that one of the four died in a car crash.
"You say four, and hope they don't ask you anything else. "People talk about closure. It doesn't have anything to do with closure. I don't know what closure is," he said.