KEY WEST — A circuit court judge sentenced Nicholas Ferro to 28 years in prison Friday for fatally stabbing Marques Butler, a well-known young Key West man in 2009. It was an emotional end to the lengthy legal process.
Ferro apologized to Butler’s mother, Fleasher Hall, and other members of his family before being sentenced. “I really am very sorry from the bottom of my heart and I mean that,” a local newspaper quoted Ferro saying before the judge passed sentence.
Ferro’s sister read a letter to Butler’s family members saying that her family has felt sadness and compassion after the family’s loss.
Judge Luis Garcia blamed the frame of mind of two groups of warring youths for Butler’s death, saying friends in both factions “should hang their heads in shame.”
Ferro, 27, was 23 in 2009 when he and a group of young people from Hollywood came across Butler—also 23 — and Butler’s friends as the two groups were walking around the pre-dawn streets of Key West during Fantasy Fest weekend.
The annual Halloween weekend parade draws tens of thousands to the city and the lively bar scene and streets remain active all night long.
The two groups clashed after members of one group insulted the other. A shoving match and brawl ensued. At one point, Butler either fell forward or Ferro lunged forward, and Ferro, using a small penknife, stabbed Butler in the abdomen.
The sentence marked the end of a four-year courtroom drama that saw several motions, including a request to allow a racial slur allegedly made by Ferro, who is white, just before he stabbed Butler.
Garcia would not allow the alleged slur. An initial trial ended in a hung jury in March 2012 and a second trial was moved to Plantation Key and the case transferred to Miami-Dade County prosecutors because employees in the Monroe County prosecutor’s office are related to the Butler family.
Ferro was convicted by the Plantation Key jury on Sept. 27 and was set to be sentenced in December. However, his defense lawyers filed a motion for a new trial. Garcia rejected that motion last Thursday, setting the stage for the sentencing.
Julian Butler Sr., the victim’s uncle, told South Florida Times in September that he was relieved Ferro had been found guilty.“We’re pleased with the verdict and want Nicholas Ferro to be sentenced by what the law provides,” he said at the time. Ferro’s lawyers on Friday asked Garcia to sentence him to 23 years, the minimum the law provides, but Garcia gave him 28 years.