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Narcisse Antoine

Other Florida DNA Exonerations
In the early morning hours of June 1, 2009, 27-year-old Jeffrey Thompson and 30-year-old Brandon Hammond were shot multiple times outside Club Mystique in West Palm Beach Florida. Hammond was killed and Thompson was wounded.

The gunman drove off after firing the shots. Tyrone Slade, a bouncer at the club, told police that the gunman was 27-year-old Narcisse Antoine. Four days later, Antoine was arrested. Antoine, a native of St. Lucia, admitted that he fired the shots, but said he was acting in self-defense after Hammond threatened him and reached for his waistband as if he had a weapon.

Antoine was indicted on charges of first-degree murder of Hammond and attempted murder of Thompson. He went to trial in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in May 2011.

Slade testified that on May 31, the club held a private event for a “small group of friends” and that Hammond and Thompson, who were regulars at the club were there. Hammond, Slade said, had a reputation for being violent and a drunk.

During the course of the night, Slade ejected Hammond and Thompson three times from the club because of their confrontations with other customers. The first time, Slade said he took Thompson outside because he continued to mock a group of men who were dancing. Slade said he told Thompson to settle down and Thompson said he did not care. Hammond played peacemaker and said they would “chill out” and behave. Slade then allowed them to go back inside.

But later that night, the club owner told Slade to eject Hammond and Thompson again because “they were being fresh with some ladies in the bar.” Slade again talked to the pair outside the bar and apparently calmed them down and allowed them to re-enter. However, shortly thereafter, Slade was forced to eject them for good after they invaded a group's private table area and nearly started a fight.

Hammond and Thompson returned to the club an hour later and after parking their black BMW in a “reckless manner,” they approached the group whose table area they had invaded as members of that group were leaving the club. Slade said both sides began threatening each other from across the street.

At about that time, Slade told the jury, Antoine emerged from the club and told everyone to calm down. Slade testified that Hammond and Thompson, who were white, told Antoine, who is black, to “mind his business” while “[s]pewing profanity and racial slurs.” Slade said Antoine laughed it off, telling them “nobody's here to fight” or “have a problem.”

Thompson turned his attention to Antoine, and began pacing back and forth. Slade testified that he thought Thompson might try to attack Antoine. Then Hammond stepped up and punched Antoine in the mouth, splitting his lip.

Slade said that Antoine stepped back, handed a plastic cup containing his drink to Slade and checked his lip. Slade said Antoine then pulled a pistol from a holster and told Thompson and Hammond to leave, prompting the two men to take a step back.

According to Slade, Hammond began “reaching in his pants as if he had a gun” and asked Antoine, “Or else what, nigger?” Slade heard Antoine ask, “Do you have a gun[?][A]re you going to shoot me?” Slade said he himself also asked what Hammond was reaching for. Slade said he warned Hammond: “Don't do this Brandon.”

As the Florida Court of Appeals would later say, “The encounter reached a tipping point. Antoine opened fire, shooting Hammond six or seven times. Fearing Hammond or Thompson would retaliate with gunfire, Slade ran for cover behind a car. Although Slade could not actually see it transpire, he could tell that Antoine fired more shots at Thompson as Thompson ran away and rounded a corner.”

Slade testified that Antoine put his gun back in its holster, went into the club where he found his girlfriend and they both drove off.

The prosecution contended that Hammond and Thompson were shot on different street corners and therefore Antoine was not acting in self-defense, but rather methodically shot Hammond to death and then turned on Thompson and shot him. Medical evidence showed that between Hammond and Thompson, they were struck a total of 12 times.

Raymond Harley, a nighttime security guard at a nearby parking lot, testified that he was dozing off in a chair outside the parking lot when he was suddenly awakened by the sound of a BMW convertible losing control and spinning out onto the sidewalk. Harley said he watched from afar as the car drove erratically before parking alongside Club Mystique.

Harley said it appeared the driver and his passenger were “looking for trouble,” as they were “harassing a couple of people who worked there and some of the customers” who had come from the inside. Harley said he heard the two say, “We'll mess you all up.”

Harley said the passenger, who was identified as Hammond, punched Antoine and that Antoine said, “You done messed up. God bless you.” Harley said that when Hammond swung again, Antoine turned around, took a sip of his drink, pulled out a gun, and blew a kiss. Hammond backed up, reached for his waistband, and pointed at Antoine, taunting him.

Harley said Antoine shot Hammond six or seven times and then turned and shot Thompson several times.

The prosecution contended that Antoine was not threatened with harm and argued that was evident in how he calmly sipped from the cup and deliberately handed it to Slade before drawing his gun.

Although Antoine did not testify, the prosecution was allowed to present Antoine’s testimony to a grand jury during which he said he acted in self-defense because he believed Hammond had a gun.

The defense contended that a blood trail leading from one corner to another showed that both victims were together when they were shot, but that Thompson managed to run away before he collapsed.

However, the prosecution argued that the blood trail was caused when paramedics loaded Thompson onto a gurney and blood dripped down as they carried him to the ambulance. The prosecution showed the jury photographs of the plastic cup that Slade said Antoine had handed him before drawing his gun.

The defense presented evidence through Slade and another bouncer that Hammond had a reputation for violence. The judge crafted an instruction to the jury that said: “If you find that Brandon C. Hammond had a reputation of being a violent and dangerous person, and that their [sic] reputation was known to the defendant, you may consider the fact in determining whether the actions of the defendant were those of a reasonable person in dealing with an individual of that reputation.”

Antoine’s defense lawyer objected to the instruction and argued that it was erroneous to say that Antoine had to know about Hammond’s reputation. The lawyer also asked that the judge instruct the jury could consider whether Hammond’s reputation for violence in determining whether Hammond was the aggressor and if Antoine was acting in self-defense. The judge rebuffed the defense arguments.

On May 13, 2011, the jury convicted Antoine of the attempted murder of Thompson. However, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder of Hammond, so a mistrial was declared.

In May 2014, the Florida Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the trial judge’s jury instructions had been erroneous and that the defense attorney had been correct.

Elizabeth Ramsey, a Florida public defender, was assigned to handle the retrial. She requested that the plastic cup be submitted for DNA testing. The tests identified four different DNA profiles—all belonging to women—and did not find Antoine’s DNA.

In April 2015, Antoine went to trial a second time. He was charged with second-degree murder for the killing of Hammond and the attempted murder of Thompson.

Ramsey had examined the crime scene photographs and noticed that a police car was parked partially on the blood trail that the prosecution contended had been created when paramedics carried Thompson to an ambulance. This was consistent with Thompson running away after he was shot, as Antoine contended. The police officer whose car was depicted in the photograph testified that he was the first officer to arrive at the scene and that the paramedics arrived later. The fact that the police car was parked on top of the blood trail, Ramsey argued, showed that Thompson had been next to Hammond and staggered across the street after he was shot and that the paramedics carrying Thompson to an ambulance did not create the blood trail.

Ramsey also called a firearms expert who testified that while the victims had 12 bullet holes, some of Thompson’s wounds were the result of bullets that pierced Hammond and exited to strike Thompson. Ramsey argued that this showed that Hammond and Thompson were next to each other at the time of the shooting.

Ramsey told the jury that the DNA tests showed that the testimony about Antoine calmly taking a sip and handing it to Slade was false.

On April 24, 2015, the jury acquitted Antoine and he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/6/2015
State:Florida
County:Palm Beach
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Convicted:2011
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:40 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:27
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*