KEY WEST — A four-year-old fatal stabbing case with overtones of the Trayvon Martin killing ended Friday when a jury in a Plantation Key courtroom rejected his self-defense claim and found Nicholas Ferro, 27, guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Marques Butler.
Butler was stabbed in the pre-dawn hours after a fight broke out during the 2009 Fantasy Fest weekend between a group from Key West and Ferro’s group, which was visiting from Hollywood.
Butler, a former football standout at Key West High School and a student at Florida Keys Community College, died hours after the stabbing while undergoing emergency surgery at the Lower Keys Medical Center.
Ferro in his statement and testimony had said he and his friends were jumped by the Key West group and that he had to pull his knife in self-defense. That claim led some residents of the Bahama Village community where Marques Butler lived to cite the case of Trayvon, the Miami Gardens teenager whom then neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed during a struggle in February 2012.
The Butlers and other community members referred to Marques Butler’s death during a vigil following Zimmerman’s acquittal earlier this year on charges of killing Trayvon. Bahama Village residents hoped the verdict against Ferro would be different.
“We’re pleased with the verdict and want Nicholas Ferro to be sentenced by what the law provides,” the victim’s uncle, Julian Butler Sr. told South Florida Times.
“It’s about time we got some justice,” added Coleton Butler, a cousin. Then Gov. Charlie Crist assigned Ferro’s prosecution to the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office. A trial in March 2011, held in Key West, ended in a hung jury after jurors failed to reach a verdict. The judge declared a mistrial.
The venue was changed for the second trial after concerns arose that Ferro could not receive a fair trial in Key West. The defense also raised concerns because three women in the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office knew Butler or knew witnesses to the slaying.
Julian Butler Sr. told South Florida Times Sunday that the Butler family have also complained about the law firm employing Ferro’s defense attorneys holding a fundraiser for Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward when he ran for re-election.
They like to blame [possible conflict of interest] on people who knew Marques in the prosecutor’s office but they don’t mention the fundraiser the defense lawyers held for Ward,” he said. “It creates doubt as to a fair trial, too.”
Ferro’s conviction was satisfying, Coleton Butler said, and he wants the sentence, which Judge Luis Garcia will hand down in about a month,to match the crime.
“Everyone deserves their day in court but I hope he is sentenced for what he did, which was purposely stab my nephew,” he said.