BROOKSVILLE A jury found Stanley Elias Eckard guilty Friday in the 2010 murder of his brother, Sean Eckard.
The state was pursuing first-degree murder against Eckard, 24, but the jury returned a second-degree verdict.
Second-degree murder is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison, and is defined by the Florida Statutes as “The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree.”
As the verdict was read, and as Judge Anthony Tatti adjudicated him guilty, Eckard kept the same, expressionless face as he had throughout the trial.
After the judge left the stand, Samuel and Donna Eckard held each other and wailed, and their family surrounded them to both support them and shield them from photographers.
Family members and jurors declined to comment later Friday afternoon about the proceedings.
Eckard will be sentenced on May 13. Tatti did not offer any opinion, and said Eckard would receive a pre-sentence investigation.
The trial resumed Friday morning with closing arguments. Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino began by showing the jury a photograph of Sean Eckard alive, and then juxtaposed that image with crime scene photos of Eckard’s exhumed body, covered in dirt. The prosecutor said he counted five different stories Stanley Eckard gave to a Hernando County sheriff’s detective, Randy Williamson, during hours of interrogation.
Magrino held up the two discs with the interview footage while explaining the State only had to prove two things for murder: that a crime was committed, and that the defendant was the person who committed the crime.
“This is not a ‘who done it’ case … those injuries inflicted by the defendant, his hands, is murder, that’s why you’re here,” Magrino said.
Magrino urged the jury to rely on the evidence presented over the past three days, and advised them to leave their “bias, prejudices and sympathies” at the door. The prosecutor quoted President Teddy Roosevelt from memory, saying
“Otherwise, a free society will fail,” Magrino continued.
In the past, Stanley Eckard’s parents have asked for leniency in the charges against their son. In a deposition, Donna Eckard told Magrino “just give me back my boy and let us go back to California.”
Chief Assistant Public Defender Alan Fanter pointed out inconsistencies and flaws in the state’s witness testimony, and told jurors not to be “swayed by the gruesomeness” of the crime scene photos.
Fanter cited the fact the murder weapon – an elastic cord – was never recovered.
“Don’t assume things that aren’t found are true,” Fanter said.
Eckard’s attorney questioned why Stanley Eckard’s DNA wasn’t tested and identified, especially since the men were brothers, and criticized a member of the forensics unit for not taking measurements of the bedroom, and for not collecting a possible blood sample from Sean’s nightstand.
Fanter reminded the jury DNA experts could say how long the blood had been on pieces of evidence including the mattress pad and a mirror, and that it could have been leftover from Sean Eckard’s suicide attempt six months earlier.
“(Stanley Eckard was) involved in the death of his brother, yes, but he did not kill his brother,” Fanter said, saying the elevated blood alcohol level, pre-existing encephalitis and mutual struggle caused his accidental demise.