A Florida woman who is accused of shooting her neighbor to death after a disagreement with her children in this month, will not be charged with murder. The prosecutor explained his reasoning in a carefully-worded statement on Monday.
Susan Louise Lorincz was charged instead with manslaughter and assault. If convicted, she could receive a maximum of 30 years behind bars.
The family of Ajike, Owens 35, who was a mother of 4, had requested a murder charge that could be punished by life imprisonment. But Mr. Gladson claimed that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime.
In a statement, he stated that he was aware of the wishes of the family and certain community members to charge the defendant with second-degree homicide. "However, I will not allow my decision to be influenced in any way by the public opinion, angry phone calls, or threats of violence that I have received."
The death of Ms. Owens on June 2, 2008, sparked outrage across the country for how Ms. Lorincz had used deadly force over a seemingly insignificant dispute.
Anthony Thomas, an attorney for the Owens' family, told a reporter on Monday that they were disappointed by the fact that no murder charges had been brought against Ms. Lorincz.
He said that the arrest affidavit seemed to be a murder case. Even if she gets 30 years in prison, the children may still be alive and see her. That would be a slap on the face.
According to the Marion County Sheriff's Office, the confrontation on June 2, came after an 'neighborhood dispute' between Ms. Lorincz & Ms. Owens over the children.
According to the sheriff’s office, Lorincz was angry with Ms. Owens’s children who were playing near her house. She started arguing with her children and threw a roller blade at the toe of Ms. Owens’s son, as well as swinging an umbrella in their direction, according to sheriff's department.
Authorities said that the children informed their mother of what happened. She then went to Ms. Lorincz’s house, knocked at her door, and demanded that she come out. Authorities said Ms. Lorincz shot Ms. Owens through the door. She was transported to the hospital where she was declared dead.
The sheriff’s office stated that Ms. Lorincz claimed to have acted in self defense and believed that Ms. Owens had tried to break her door. They said, however, that detectives had been able to prove that Ms. Lorincz's actions were not legal.
In a press release at the time, the lawyers for Ms. Owens’s family said that witnesses heard Ms. Lorincz yelling racial epithets at Ms. Owens’s children just before the shooting. According to a police affidavit, Ms. Lorincz admitted that she had used racial epithets against children from the neighborhood in the past. Ms. Owens is Black.
After receiving calls from the family of Ms. Owens, civil rights leaders, and her friends to bring murder charges against Ms. Lorincz. Mr. Gladson said that he had examined the validity of the charge.
In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Gladson stated that he provided a public statement explaining his decision. He said it was important to be transparent and it would also be beneficial to explain how the law applies to this particular set of facts.
In the explanation, Mr. Gladson stated that to prove a murder of the second degree, it must be shown 'beyond all reasonable doubts' that the defendant had a "depraved mental state" at the time the killing occurred.
He added that a depraved mentality requires proof of hatred, spite or ill will towards the victim. According to the facts of this case, simply aiming the gun at the door and pulling the trigger does not prove a depraved mentality.
He added: "Case Law has consistently held extreme recklessness or overreactions impulsive in themselves are insufficient to establish second-degree murder."
Mr. Thomas said, however, that the events leading up to the shooting and the relationship between Ms. Lorinz, Ms. Owens, and themselves were evidence of a "depraved" mind.
Amanda Sizemore's attorney, Ms. Lorincz, refused to comment on the matter on Monday.
In the United States, other everyday disputes led to fatal shootings, provoking protests and outrage. Especially after victims were shot because they made innocent mistakes, such as going to the incorrect address, getting into the wrong car, or ringing the doorbell at the wrong time.
Since her arrest on June 6, Ms. Lorincz is in the Marion County Jail. She faces charges of manslaughter, battery, assault, and culpable neglect. The charges of the state attorney are identical to those initially filed.
This case has added to the debate over legal protections that people can claim when they use deadly force because they feared for safety.
The'stand-your-ground' law in Florida gained widespread attention after the police refused to arrest George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon. His acquittal in 2013 sparked nationwide protests. He was charged later, but he was subsequently acquitted.
In the case of Ms. Owens, the sheriff's department said that it was required by law for the investigators to determine if 'deadly force was justified' before making an arrest. The family of Ms. Owens held a press conference on June 5, calling for the authorities to arrest her shooter.