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Attempted Murder Suspect Rolls Dice On New Trial

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Willie Barney in court April 22, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

Willie Barney in court April 22, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBS4) – With a judge warning him to be careful what he wishes for, a convicted armed robber and attempted murderer was granted a new trial in Miami-Dade Monday.

Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat granted a defense motion that Willie Barney be retried after his conviction in April for robbery and attempted murder of off-duty Miami-Dade Detective Wislyn Joseph.

Joseph was allegedly set upon by Barney and two accomplices as he did volunteer work at his church in Miami in September. The detective took a .45 caliber slug to the chest at near point-blank range but survived.

On April 29th, a jury found Barney guilty of robbery and attempted murder, but could not agree unanimously that he was the trigger man.

Judge Rodriguez-Chomat admitted committing an error during jury selection in the first trial, but said the error would not have made the difference in Barney’s conviction.

“Any reasonable juror,” the judge said would have found the case against Barney “was overwhelming.”

Still the judge granted Barney a new trial, rather than risk a reversal later by an appeals court. At the same time, Rodriguez-Chomat cautioned Barney that by being retried he runs the risk of being convicted as the gunman, and could face possible life without parole. As it is, Barney was facing a maximum of 45 years. He opted to risk the possible downside of a retrial.

“Anytime you go to trial, you’re rolling the dice,” his attorney Robert Barrar said in defending his client’s decision.

The case against Barney will be compounded in the retrial. The state will add another charge – the robbery of a man in Miami Shores as the man mowed his yard. Both Detective Joseph and the Miami Shores man positively identified Barney as the gunman in their cases. It means not one, but two victims will finger him in the retrial.

Barney is charged with defendants Dedrick Brown and Travares Santiago in a 2012 spree in which they allegedly robbed and shot Joseph, robbed and fatally wounded Barrington Kerr in his Miami Gardens yard and committed several other robberies. In every case, the bandits took the victims’ gold jewelry.

Barney’s retrial is scheduled to begin next Monday with a new jury being selected.

The judge suggested Barney might want to strike some sort of plea bargain prior to the retrial, but the state flatly ruled out that possibility.

“No,” said an emphatic prosecutor, Richard Scruggs. “The state’s not interested in a plea.”

Barney’s alleged accomplices will be tried separately.

Regardless of the outcome of his second trial, Barney and the others still face multiple prosecutions, including one for first degree murder in the killing of Barrington Kerr. The chef was shot dead as he chatted with a friend in his front yard – his gold chain snatched from around his neck.

At 19, Barney is an alleged serial offender. He was previously convicted of armed robbery, but got just one year as a “youthful offender.” After violating his probation, he was returned to prison for two years. He had been out only a matter of weeks before he allegedly began wreaking murder and mayhem on the community.

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