LAKELAND – A bond hearing for a Lakeland man awaiting trial for second degree murder was postponed Friday when a prosecutor alleged the defense had withheld video evidence of the incident.
Michael Shane Denn II, 29, is charged with shooting and killing Juan Barroso-Muriel, 35, of Lakeland on May 17 after an argument in Denn’s shop, Strapped Transport Towing and Recovery in Mulberry. He has been detained in Polk County Jail since his arrest that day.
At the start of a bond hearing on Friday, Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Guerra requested a continuation of Judge Keith Spoto’s hearing. He said defense attorneys Richard Escobar and Dino Michaels provided him with a video on a USB flash drive earlier this week that was being edited and his office did not have enough time to review it.
“Two days ago, Mr. Escobar and Mr. Michaels arranged a meeting with me where they provided a USB stick containing a video of the actual crime scene, which includes the victim’s point of death in this case,” said Guerra. “This video came from the defendant’s business.”
Guerra said that the night of the shooting, law enforcement officers requested the surveillance video from the co-owner of the towing company, which Guerra said was Denn’s mother.
“They were told the video didn’t exist,” said Guerra. “That the camera equipment was not operational. That was a lie. “
Guerra said defense attorneys edited the video on Wednesday and presented it silently to force the state to approve a loan. He said the state had reason to believe the company plugged in audio.
“I think it’s very clear that the video shows at least one degree of murder in this case,” said Guerra. “The problem the state now has is that the defense attorneys on this matter are in possession of search warrant evidence and have not fully made it available to the state.”
Polk County Sheriff’s Detective Angel Shireman took pictures of the cordless business from a television, Guerra said.
Guerra said the state needed more time to get the tape recorder from the defense and asked the judge to allow continuation and order the defense to provide the sheriff’s office with the full tape recorder.
“The prosecutor seems to be telling the court that something that is somehow part of the business should have belonged to the government,” Escobar said.
Escobar said the company held the evidence and sent it to a former head of a retired FBI laboratory specializing in video and audio equipment.
“He took this particular device and kept the drive in its most virgin state,” said Escobar. “So it is wrong for the prosecutor to suggest that we somehow hold this video for ransom until the last minute.”
Escobar also contradicted Guerra’s claim that the video showed a second degree murder.
“If he thinks the video is so good for him, why is he asking for a sequel,” said Escobar.
Escobar said videos were difficult to change and the video would show the court that Denn had no choice but to shoot.
Escobar told Spoto that its experts have the original video in their possession and have created a clone of the video that they can work with to get the original copy.
Guerra said the video was the subject of a search warrant served on May 17.
Escobar said the equipment was not on the premises at the time the search warrant was carried out.
“We wanted to make sure there wasn’t a single problem with this video at the end of the day because it’s very good for defense,” said Escobar. “So we have the original, which has not been used negatively in form or form in any way. We cloned one for ourselves to work with and we gave them a copy. “
Guerra said he didn’t think it was a coincidence that they shared the video just days before the hearing.
“A few weeks ago I received a call from Mr. Dino Michaels who said they had evidence that they wanted to see me and the prosecutor,” said Guerra. “I assume you mentioned it.”
After a brief pause, Spoto offered attorneys the option to continue the hearing without using the video, or to allow the hearing to continue so the state can retrieve and review the evidence.
Escobar did not want to continue the hearing without the video because it was very important for the defense.
“I think it proves our case overall,” said Escobar. “So of course we can’t go on without this video.”