BY JOHN A. TORRES
Assistant Public Defender Mike Pirolo couldn't remember the last time the public defender's office won a capital murder case. Now, he can.
Pirolo and George McCarthy successfully defended 20-year-
old Nikee Turner, who was facing life in prison in the shooting death of Lonsley Dortly Jr. in 2005. A jury acquitted Turner of first-degree murder.
Pirolo and McCarthy argued that Turner was supposed to take the fall and that he was threatened since his arrest not to "rat out" the real killer. They said that fear was what prompted Turner to make a videotaped confession -- a confession that never matched the facts.
A few months after being charged with the murder, Turner tried hanging himself in the Brevard County jail where he was being held until the trial.
Police said Dortly was killed at the Colonial Arms Apartments on Merritt Island after buying crack cocaine and that Turner shot him in retaliation for threats made against Turner's brother.
"There was a video introduced into evidence containing a confession," Pirolo said. "We argued that it was a false confession because he had to take the fall for the person who really committed the crime.
The state presented three convicted felons as witnesses in the case, including one who admitted to being a gang member and two who said they received deals in exchange for their testimony.
Because of his age, Turner was not facing the death penalty.
"It's tragic what happened to Mr. Dorlty, however, Nikee was not the one who committed the crime," Pirolo said.
Usually hamstrung by small budgets and an inability to spend what the prosecution does, the public defender's office rarely is able to boast of an acquittal in such a serious case.
Contact Torres at 242-3649 or email@example.com.