Friday, January 23, 2009
Jamail Hogan May Face Death Penalty
By Jason Geary
Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 2:50 p.m.
BARTOW | A Circuit Court jury Thursday found a 28-year-old Winter Haven guilty of fatally shooting a convenience store clerk.
Now jury will must recommend whether Jamail Hogan should face the death penalty for the murder of a Bartow convenience store clerk.
The jury spent more than eight hours over two days deliberating before finding Hogan guilty as charged of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.
Hogan’s trial will enter the penalty phase Monday with lawyers presenting testimony, evidence and arguments about whether Hogan should be executed for murder or receive life imprisonment.
Circuit Judge J. Michael Hunter must give the jury’s recommendation “great weight” under Florida law.
Remesh Desai, a 44-year-old store clerk, was shot in the torso during a robbery attempt Dec. 2, 2005, at Bill’s Market in Bartow.
Hours after the shooting, a deputy stopped Hogan for speeding in a white Chevrolet Cavalier. Inside the car, investigators recovered a .380-caliber pistol.
The gun was later tested and determined to have fired the bullet that struck Desai, prosecutors said.
During Wednesday’s closing arguments, one of Hogan’s lawyers, Julia Williamson, said Hogan was driving his stepbrother’s car and the items inside belonged to Hogan’s stepbrother.
In an October trial, a jury acquitted Hogan’s stepbrother, Bryan Smith, of first-degree murder in Desai’s slaying, but found him guilty of taking part in the attempted armed robbery.
Circuit Judge Dennis Maloney sentenced Smith to 15 years in state prison.
Smith, 23, had previously been sentenced to 140 years in federal prison for participating in a series of robberies with Hogan in 2005.
Hogan has been sentenced to more than 240 years in prison on federal charges related to the series of robberies.
The stepbrothers are sons of two Polk County Sheriff’s Office employees, Capt. James Hogan and Lucretia Hogan, who is a detention deputy.
Last week, Jamail Hogan took the witness stand to testify that he was home at the time of the shooting.
Hogan said he later borrowed Smith’s car that evening, but had no idea the murder weapon or other evidence was inside.
“He was not there at Bill’s Market,” Williamson told jurors during closing argument.
Assistant State Attorney Hardy Pickard dismissed Hogan’s denials, and described the defense’s claim that another man must have helped Hogan’s stepbrother in the robbery attempt as “absolutely ridiculous” and a “red herring.”
“It should be rather obvious (Hogan) is going to say he didn’t do it,” Pickard said. “The man is a 12-time convicted felon. What do you think he’s going to say?
He is going to say what he believes is in his best interest to say.”
The gunman who shot Desai was wearing a white hat, blue gloves, safety glasses and a “Dirty South” sweatshirt.
“Those exact items were found in Mr. Hogan’s home,” Pickard said. “Is that just random? Is that just pure bad luck? Just pure coincidence? I think not.”
Despite the disguise, two people at the store recognized Hogan as the shooter because Hogan worked at a nearby business and was a regular customer of Bill’s Market, Pickard said.
When Hogan was stopped by deputies after the shooting, Hogan got out of the car and a .380-caliber bullet fell off his lap, another round was found in his pants’ pocket and more bullets were in the car’s center console, according to prosecutors.
The second robber of Bill’s Market was armed with a police baton and was wearing a red sweatshirt. The car Hogan was driving contained a police baton and a red sweatshirt.
“I don’t know what more you can ask for or what more you can want,” Pickard said.
“Mr. Hogan says ‘I didn’t do it.’ So what? He can say whatever he wants to say. That doesn’t change the facts. That doesn’t change the evidence. Jamail Hogan killed Remesh Desai.”
Jurors were able to watch video surveillance taken from several angles inside the store on U.S. 17. There is no sound on the recording. But the color footage vividly captured disturbing images as two robbers enter the store.
Desai is shot, falls to the floor in pain, but manages to get back up a short time later. Desai didn’t die until weeks after the shooting from a blood clot.
The defense argued his death might not be a homicide and suggested Desai’s diabetes could have caused the fatal blood clot.
Pickard said the medical examiner determined that Desai died from a blood clot caused by complications from major surgery as a result of being shot.
[ Reporter Jason Geary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7536. ]