FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Closing arguments were made Thursday in the "Stand Your Ground" hearing for a man who police say shot and killed an off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent in 2008.
On Thursday, testimony centered on what agent Donald Petit was doing before he was shot and killed by James Wonder, 69, at the post office in Pembroke Pines.
According to court testimony, Petit followed Wonder into the parking lot following a road rage incident. After the shooting, Wonder left the post office and was arrested the next day.
Prosecutors focused on whether Petit was charging toward Wonder or running away when he was shot. Prosecutors presented graphic autopsy photos showing the path the bullet took as it grazed the top of Petit's skull toward the back of his head to prove he couldn't have been charging at Wonder as defense attorneys contended.
"The path of the wound through Mr. Pettits head is not consistent with someone running toward an individual or walking toward, even with their head down," said forensic pathologist Barbara Wolf.
But under cross examination, the state's witness conceded that Petit could have turned his head when Wonder pulled the trigger.
"Yes, in my opinion, the position you just demonstrated would be consistent," said Wolf.
During closing arguments, defense attorneys called Pettit the aggressor and said Wonder, a dialysis patient in fragile health, fired his .40 caliber handgun in self-defense.
"He's never been accused of violence in his entire life. Ever. He's 69 years old. The only motive Mr. Wonder had to pull out his weapon was to protect himself," said defense attorney Frank Maister.
But prosecutors told the judge that Wonder overreacted when Pettit got out of his car and said Wonder was despondent over his failing health.
"Not saying Mr. Petit was acting correctly, I'm not saying he shouldn't have been yelling at Mr. Wonder, but I'm saying he didn't deserve to get shot over it," said prosecutor Michelle Boutros.
The judge is expected to rule on whether the case falls under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law at the end of the month. If he rules it doesn't fall under the law, Wonder will face a trial.
Wonder is charged with manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
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