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Brother who killed brother with fatal push gets a break

BY DAVID OVALLE, dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

LuisAfter an evening of heavy drinking, Victor Luis and his brother got into an argument in a North Miami Beach alleyway. Victor pushed his sibling, who stumbled backward, slammed his head on the concrete and passed out.

Fifteen days later, Juan Carlos Luis died of head trauma at Jackson Memorial Hospital — and Victor was booked into jail for his brother’s death.

But Miami-Dade prosecutors this week dropped the manslaughter charge against Victor, 49, after his lawyers argued that the brother’s death should be deemed an “excusable homicide” – a rare legal way for someone to beat a criminal charge involving a death in Florida.

“Certainly, Mr. Luis never intended to kill or seriously injure his older brother,” said his lawyer, Rick Hermida. “Sometimes, accidents happen and horseplay escalates. And that was the case here.”

A spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office said on Tuesday: “Plain and simple, we could not refute the points brought up by the defense and we were left with no choice but to drop the case.”

While so-called “one-punch” slaying cases are rare, it is even rarer for a defendant to convince prosecutors or a jury that the slaying is “excusable.”

One recent example: In 2010, Miami police arrested Sosthene Louis, a homeless man with an extensive criminal record, after he punched a Boca Raton club-goer for refusing to give him a cigarette. The victim, Lisney Oliveira, hit his head on the sidewalk and died.

Louis wound up pleading guilty to manslaughter and was imprisoned for 22 months.

The North Miami Beach case began in July 2012, after brothers Victor and Juan Luis spent the night drinking. The two were in an alleyway behind Spinnaker’s Bar, playing loud music from a car, when Victor confronted his brother.

The reason: Juan had gone to Gulfstream Park earlier that day with friends and had not invited his younger brother.

The two began “wrestling,” according to a North Miami Beach police report. “Both brothers were intoxicated and talking gibberish in Spanish,” one friend told police.

At one point, Victor picked up Juan and carried him through the alley. During the scrum, Victor “became upset because he felt as though his brother was treating him like a kid,” and when Juan “got in his face,” he pushed him to the ground using both hands.

When Juan remained on the ground, Victor began yelling for onlookers to call 911. He asked for water and ice to help revive his brother.

“He asked God to take his life for his brother’s life,” a police detective wrote in a report. “Victor said he also promised to stop drinking, if God spared his brother’s life.”

Victor, an drug and alcohol <span class="bold"></span>addict who has been in and out of rehab programs, told police “if he goes to prison if his brother dies, that he would take his own life.”

The swelling of the brain was so great that doctors had to remove a portion of Juan’s skull to relieve the pressure. Nevertheless, he died more than two weeks later.

The case lingered in the court system for nearly two years.

Victor’s lawyer, in a motion filed in January, pointed to a portion of the law that defines an excusable homicide as committed “by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, without any dangerous weapon being used and not done in a cruel and unusual manner.”

Defense lawyer Hermida pointed to an appeals court decision from 1983, when a man named Donald Aiken, caught digging through the dumpster behind a Miami supermarket, got into a pushing match with a local resident. Aiken pushed the man with a milk crate; he fell and fatally fractured his skull on the ground.

Prosecutors charged Aiken with second-degree murder and a jury convicted on manslaughter. The Third District Court of Appeals reversed the conviction – giving Victor Luis ammo to challenge his arrest more than three decades later.

 

Comments

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Marie Mascaro

I think it w the right decision. The family lost one son already and the son that caused hi death will live with that all the rest of his life. What greater punishment is there?

jerry gonzalez

Mile Ryan esq

Rebecca Lajcin

This was my father who died. First off his name is Jose Carlos not Juan. Second, my uncle has also been in and out of jail for battery and molestation. Good job state of Florida for putting this coward back on the street. Disgusting.

Georgia Pelletiere

My Uncle had a alcohol and Drug problem but was not a violent person as you have written. He was a loving father and grandfather! It would have been nice for you to have the facts like his correct name and maybe facts from the families involved before putting this article out. Very disturbed!!!!!

Evelyn Alvarado

"Excusable homicide" what kind of crap is that. This is why the world is what it is today, because we have so much garbage ruining our judicial system. It is so true when people say we get away with murder in this country. How sad of an outcome for the justice on Carlos's case.

Doris

Jose Carlos Luis was the father of my great nephew & great nieces, I knew Jose Carlos for over 20 years & know that he may have had his drug & alcohol problems but violence wasn't one of them. He was the type of person that would given you the shirt off his back if you asked him for it without hesitation. He loved his children & grandchildren dearly! He was also the caretaker for his elderly parents. Not only will the person who took his life have to answer to God but so will the lawyer that got him off, and also the people that paid for this lawyer to get him off! Jose Carlos 's blood is in their hands!! The only ones suffering the loss of their father & grandfather are my great nieces & great nephews-Jose Carlos' s children & grandchildren!! The Miami Herald's reporter, David Ovalle should've researched more thoroughly instead of being so biased!!

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