Luis Gonzalez mug shot
Luis Gonzalez was tried and convicted for Manslaughter with a Weapon, and Failing to Render Aid in an accident involving death. Both are 1st Degree Felonies, with penalties of up to 3o years. Judge Edward Volz maxed him out, 30 years on each count, to be served consecutively. In Florida, prisoners must serve at least 85% of their sentence before release, so that is 51 years before the possibility of release, less any credit for time he already served. The fact that he fled the country for several years before being brought to justice likely did not favorably influence the judge at sentencing, nor did the violent nature of the death. While the state proceeded on a manslaughter theory, there was evidence that he backed over her, striking her a second time before driving off. An appeal will naturally follow.
Opening statements were yesterday afternoon. As I anticipated, the primary defense will be to challenge the State’s circumstantial case that Gonzalez was the driver. Although the case is circumstantial (no witness saw the collision that killed Tia Poklemba), it is still fairly strong for the state. Ms. Poklemba was seen getting into Gonzalez’s car not long before she was killed. The State says forensics will prove that she was killed by that car, and that he told officers he took her to 7-11 and dropped her off, but video shows nobody getting out of his car there. Finally; that since Gonzalez fled afterward, leaving his pregnant girlfriend behind, that shows he was guilty. The Defense said there were two more men that got into the car with them, and that those men later forced out Gonzalez, prior to Poklemba’s death. The Defense also challenged the findings of the accident reconstructionist, which they may use to argue that the state cannot prove the intentional act necessary for manslaughter. A true accident won’t be a manslaughter, but could still lead to a conviction for leaving the scene.
Both the Naples News and News Press are live-Tweeting the trial:
From Wink News. They should be able to select a jury today in the Manslaughter with a Weapon charge against Luis Gonzalez. The State will likely try to use evidence of his flight to Mexico to demonstrate consciousness of guilt. Normally these types of trials last at least a few days.
The Vehicular Manslaughter trial for Luis Gonzalez is set for next week, starting Tuesday. Gonzalez is charged with running over Tia Poklemba, then leaving her to die. He was one of Lee County’s most wanted for some time, and was featured on America’s Most Wanted. Tips ultimately led to his arrest in Mexico after four years on the lam, and he was extradited back to Florida last year.
Luis Gonzalez mug shot
The state has chosen to charge the case as Manslaughter with a Weapon, instead of Vehicular Homicide. Normally Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide are second degree felonies, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. However, as charged with the aggravating factor of a weapon, this manslaughter charge is enhanced to a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The vehicular manslaughter charge could also be enhanced by failing to render aid. The State must feel they have a stronger case that the vehicle was being used as a weapon. This suggests they may proceed on a theory of manslaughter by act or procurement, instead of by culpable negligence. If the Defendant was guilty on a negligence theory, that would suggest the vehicle was not a weapon.
I’m doing my legal nitpicking, because this case is probably not about the enhancement. This case is probably about whether or not they can put Mr. Gonzalez behind the wheel. The evidence reported indicates that Ms. Poklemba was run over twice, going forward and backward. There is apparently video of her hanging out with Mr. Gonzalez earlier in the evening. The challenge for the state will be proving that he was driving at the time Ms. Poklemba was hit. It may be a circumstantial case, which is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Just last week, the state lost a DUI Manslaughter case because they could not prove the Defendant was driving. The facts are very different: in that case, there was evidence that the other person thrown from the vehicle was the driver. But DUI manslaughter cases are difficult, especially if there is no wheel witness.
Gonzalez faces up to 60 years in prison. In addition to the Manslaughter with a Weapon charge, he is charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death, also a first degree felony. Court watchers take note, two excellent attorneys in ASA Dan Feinberg and Defense Attorney Donald Day are likely trying the case.
Luis Gonzalez mug shot
He got picked up a few months ago, in Mexico, and has been extradited back to Fort Myers to face charges. I hear the arraignment is Monday. It will be several months, if not year, for the case to get resolved…
He’s not to be confused with the other Luis Gonzalez, who might have the best mug shot ever…
Shine on you crazy diamond…