After gunning down two unarmed black men outside a Miami strip club in 2012, security guard Lukace Kendle claimed the shooting was justified under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. During the trial, where Kendle chose to act as his own attorney, he compared himself to George Zimmerman and claimed the evidence was fabricated "because I’m white."
Unsurprisingly, jurors convicted Kendle, who was later sentenced to life in prison. He quickly filed an appeal arguing he probably should have had a real lawyer after all.
Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal denied his request for a new trial. The appellate court pointed out that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dava Tunis had cautioned Kendle several times against acting as his own lawyer.
"Kendle knowingly, intelligently, and freely waived his right to be represented by counsel and exercised his right to represent himself," Third DCA Chief Judge Leslie Rothenberg wrote in the August 15 decision.
The shooting took place June 1, 2012, outside Club Lexx, where Kendle worked as an armed security guard despite his criminal history and questionable mental state. Michael Smathers and Kijuan Byrd had just arrived at the club when Kendle fired multiple shots toward the men's parked car, claiming he saw them rolling a joint. Byrd was killed, and Smathers was paralyzed from the waist down.
Police arrested Kendle for second-degree murder and attempted murder, but before the case could go to trial, Kendle was twice declared mentally incompetent to proceed. Later, after he was judged to be mentally competent, he insisted on representing himself in court.
Before the case went to trial in 2015, Kendle once again rebuffed the judge's offer to have a trained lawyer help him with his defense. Asked if he would take guidance from attorney Abe Bailey, Kendle told the judge: "Not if he was the last man on Earth."
Instead, Kendle fumbled his way through a five-day trial, arguing that his arrest was a conspiracy against white people.
"The subjects I shot were African-American. I can prove that,” Kendle told jurors. "What they’re not allowing me to tell you is that I was arrested because of the George Zimmerman shooting."
Despite those gaffes, the appellate court determined Kendle had been "sufficiently advised... of the pitfalls and the difficulties associated with self-representation."
According to prison records, he is serving his life term at the Cross City Correctional Institution, a men's prison about an hour west of Gainesville.
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