Testimony begins in 'Stand Your Ground' hearing

James Wonder accused of shooting, killing US Customs and Border Protection agent Donald Petit in 2008

Author: Roger Lohse, Reporter, rlohse@Local10.com
Published On: Oct 30 2012 05:55:06 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 30 2012 08:37:05 PM EDT
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

Attorneys in the James Wonder "Stand Your Ground" hearing laid out their respective cases Tuesday to the judge who will decide if the 69-year-old man who killed a federal agent following a road rage incident should face a jury or be cleared of criminal charges.

Wonder was in court for the first day of courtroom testimony Tuesday. On Monday, attorneys and the judge met where the shooting happened: the post office at Pines Boulevard and Dykes Road in Pembroke Pines.

"We have to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it is more likely than not that Mr. Wonder was acting in self-defense," defense attorney Frank Maister told the judge.

According to police, Wonder shot and killed Donald Pettit, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent, in August of 2008.

According to defense attorneys, Pettit followed Wonder into the parking lot, got out of his car, and aggressively approached the elderly dialysis patient, who opened fire with .40 caliber handgun, killing Pettit, before leaving the post office.

Defense attorneys said Pettit never identified himself as a law enforcement officer.

But prosecutors paint a different picture of James Wonder. They described him as a hot head who was despondent over his failing health. Petit's widow listened from the front row of the court room as prosecutors said the judge shouldn't consider what James Wonder reasonably thought was going to happen to him before the pulled he trigger, but what a reasonable person would have done in that situation.

"Not an angry person with a very bad temper, not a person who doesn't think he has anything to for, but a reasonable person", said prosecutor Michelle Boutros.

Wonder is expected to take the stand at some point during the hearing, which is scheduled to run into next week. Wonder is charged with manslaughter with a deadly weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.