Court Cases

Brener Gets Death Penalty Waved by Unknown

And argues against release of surveillance video.

In a final effort to block the release of surveillance tape showing her son Gerald’s shooting, Gail Rabon went before a Lee County judge on Friday and spoke of her family’s grief. “I’m here representing my 10-year old son, Jack,” she told Judge Edward Volz. “Jack did not see his brother in the hospital, nor did he see him at the funeral viewing. I want Jack to remember his brother as he was — whole.” But the battle over the tape went unresolved yet again. Volz said he’d consider this second round of arguments and decide later whether reporters can see the footage of Gerald Rabon, 20, a San Carlos Park convenience store clerk, being shot in the head in a robbery last summer. Iris Moreland and her brother, Chad, both charged with first-degree murder in the case, sat feet apart from each other in court. Their attorneys argued strenuously Friday and at an earlier hearing that if the press gets its hands on the video, neither of the Morelands will get a fair trial in Lee County.

As Volz ponders that issue, defense attorney David Brener has taken another point of contention up to an appeals court. Brener, who represents Iris Moreland, said prosecutors have opted not to seek the death penalty against her. Even so, he wants to hire a mental health expert to evaluate his client, and he doesn’t want to tell the state why. In Lee County, Brener said after the video tape hearing, private defense attorneys brought on to handle murder cases have to reveal their rationale when they ask for money to pay for experts. He said he’s fighting that requirement in hopes of keeping his strategy from the prosecution. Back in the courtroom, Gail Rabon concluded her appeal to Volz by saying that the tape, if it were released, would eventually find its way to Gerald Rabon’s little brother. According to Brener, the surveillance video is “very graphic,” showing two hooded figures inside the Pik ‘N Run. One of the robbers apparently shoots Rabon, who drops to the floor and sits there in a growing pool of blood until paramedics arrive.

Representing several local news media outlets who want the video released, attorney Steve Carta said he has seen the clip, too. “A man was shot and killed, that’s horrible in and of itself,” Carta said, but the tape isn’t so graphic that it would be toxic to the Morelands’ rights to a fair trial. You only barely catch one glimpse of a perpetrator’s face, Carta said, and neither of the hooded figures is identifiable — not even as a man or a woman. On Gail Rabon’s concern for her younger son, he said shielding a victim’s family isn’t a sufficient legal reason to withhold public records: “As compelling as it is, it would be improper for the court to rule on that basis.”