A former ballerina in Florida had her self-defense declare denied by a choose in a pretrial order issued this week, Legislation&Crime has discovered.
Ashley Benefield, 31, stands accused of homicide within the second diploma for capturing and killing her estranged husband, Douglas “Doug” Benefield, 58, inside their Lakewood Ranch, Florida, dwelling in September 2020. The defendant has persistently maintained she acted in self-defense since being arrested in November of that yr.
On Monday, twelfth Judicial District Circuit Court docket Decide Stephen M. Whyte issued an order kind of agreeing with the state’s understanding of the occasions that led to Doug Benefield’s loss of life.
“The competent and substantial proof offered by the State proves clearly and convincingly that the defendant shouldn’t be entitled to court-ordered immunity from felony prosecution, as she was not justified in utilizing lethal pressure towards the sufferer on September 27, 2020,” Whyte wrote within the order obtained by Court docket TV.
In July, Ashley Benefield’s protection staff filed a movement for dismissal primarily based on Florida’s “stand-your-ground” regulation. The affirmative protection may end up in felony expenses being dropped towards somebody who makes use of lethal pressure – if and once they imagine their life, or another person’s life, is in imminent hazard or in the event that they fairly imagine they’re being threatened with nice bodily hurt. The regulation doesn’t require the individual utilizing lethal pressure to retreat, however they need to not be committing against the law and should be in a spot they’ve a authorized proper to be.
On Sept. 27, 2020, Manatee County emergency dispatchers obtained a 911 name round 6 p.m. from a person who mentioned his neighbor had simply run over to his residence, shouting for assist, claiming her husband had simply attacked her, and he or she shot him in reprisal.
In line with the defendant, her husband had lengthy been abusive – beforehand submitting a number of home violence claims towards Doug Benefield that went nowhere as judges discovered her earlier allegations of abuse and poisoning unpersuasive. Her protection staff solid the deadly violence because the end result of that lengthy alleged historical past.
In 2016, the Benefields first met at a Republican fundraiser in Palm Seaside. Ashley Benefield was a 24-year-old mannequin and ballerina. Doug Benefield was a just lately widowed 54-year-old Navy veteran.
Two weeks after assembly, they had been married.
The whirlwind romance would finally bitter.
Ashley Benefield needed to begin her personal ballet firm. So, the couple based “The American Nationwide Ballet” in Charleston, South Carolina. Their ballet firm shortly failed.
Quickly after that failed effort, the Benefields discovered they had been anticipating a child. On account of a difficult being pregnant, Ashley Benefield moved from South Carolina to Florida to be along with her mom and gave beginning in March 2018. After that, issues began to crumble, and a contentious battle over custody of the kid started.
On the day in query, Ashley Benefield was making ready to maneuver to Maryland along with her mom and the then-separated couple’s younger daughter, the protection’s movement to dismiss says. Doug Benefield arrived to assist with the transfer – a transfer he additionally deliberate to make, although the 2 could be residing in separate homes up north.
After arriving “blissful, hyper and animated,” the person finally grew to become “agitated, sullen and intimating,” the movement alleges. Finally, after verbally insulting his spouse, Doug Benefield rammed her with a shifting field, leaving abrasions, or small cuts, the movement says. The altercation escalated from there.
The defendant says she tried to depart however was grabbed by her husband – who mentioned she couldn’t depart him. Then, the movement says, she demanded that he depart the property, enraging him additional.
“Elevating his proper hand, with a closed fist, the decedent drove his knuckles, on the second joint, into the left aspect of Ms. Benefield’s head,” the movement reads. “Her worst fears realized, Ms. Benefield now believed her life was at risk.”
4 pictures had been fired. Two linked.
The state, nonetheless, hotly disputed that story.
“Primarily based on the entry wounds on Douglas, it doesn’t seem that he was going through Ashley when she started capturing,” a regulation enforcement affidavit alleges. “It additionally doesn’t seem that Douglas had taken any form of defensive or combative stance.”
At the least one knowledgeable has already contradicted regulation enforcement.
Throughout the motions listening to earlier this summer season, Chief Medical Examiner of the twelfth Circuit, Dr. Russell Vega, mentioned Doug Benefield was almost certainly going through his spouse when she shot him within the chest.
Within the unsuccessful movement for dismissal, Ashley Benefield’s attorneys added proof, paperwork, and pictures to assist their argument. These included pictures of Doug Benefield that present his spectacular physique and energy, together with the reduce on the aspect of Ashley Benefield’s physique she allegedly obtained from the shifting field and a photograph of Ashley Benefield with a black eye. The protection says the harm pictures had been taken on the day of the capturing.
The previous mannequin is submitting an enchantment of the court docket’s order with the Sunshine State’s Second District Court docket of Enchantment, Legislation&Crime has discovered. On Tuesday, at a listening to, the trial was stayed till Nov. 29. The jury trial was beforehand slated to start on Oct. 16.
If the defendant’s enchantment is unsuccessful, she will be able to nonetheless use self-defense as an affirmative protection throughout a possible trial – a denial of a broad-based stand-your-ground movement for immunity doesn’t preclude utilizing self-defense as an argument throughout a trial.
Ashley Benefield’s lawyer, Neil Taylor, didn’t instantly return a Legislation&Crime request for remark.
Vanessa Bein and Alyssa Fisher contributed to this report.
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