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Sans Lawyer, Man Cleared of Murder

January 20, 2002|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — A felon who fired his lawyer and represented himself has been acquitted of murder charges.

Ernest Spann, 35, who has an 11th-grade education, was tried three times on murder and burglary charges connected to a 1991 slaying. After deliberating three hours, the jury acquitted him Friday. He had faced life in prison.

"He gambled with his life and he won," said Assistant Public Defender Harvey Hyman, who helped Spann.

The charges involved the murder of Brenda McKenzie, 35, whose nude body was found in her home in August 1991. She had been shot once in the chest, and police say she died in a botched drug deal.

At Spann's first trial last year, with a lawyer representing him, the judge declared a mistrial when a juror held out for a not guilty verdict. Months later, Spann insisted on representing himself, and the trial again ended with a hung jury.

The acquittal doesn't mean Spann goes free. He is serving a 13 1/2-year sentence on cocaine charges and is scheduled for release in December 2008.

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