BRADENTON -- Devin Chandler is set to stand trial later this month for the fatal shootings of two brothers during an armed robbery in a Palmetto convenience store.
Chandler tried to change his plea to guilty last week while issues surrounding the death penalty are argued. Circuit Judge Diana Moreland denied the motion to accept Chandler's change of plea after the defense argued to strike the state's intent to seek the death penalty and rule the death penalty was no longer applicable to the case.
Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts argued that the death sentence is no longer applicable because of a Jan. 12 Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida that found it unconstitutional that judges, not juries, in Florida have the final decision in the death penalty.
But Moreland citing the 1977 Supreme Court case Dobbert v. Florida, said the state had the right to give notice of its intent and that at the time of the slayings the death penalty was an option. Both attorneys were asked to submit written briefs on how Dobbert should or shouldn't be applied by 5 p.m. Friday.
Moreland extended the deadline one week, to Friday.
With the speedy trial time limit, which Chandler refused to waive, set to expire, Moreland set the case for trial beginning at 9 a.m. March 28.
The denial to accept Chandler's change of plea was without prejudice, allowing it to be pursued again once the other issues are resolved.
At about 2:30 p.m. on Labor Day, detectives say Chandler is seen by the video surveillance walking into the Snappy's Mart, 559, 17th St. W., Palmetto. He picked an item off a shelf and then approached the counter as if he were going to pay.
Instead of taking out money to pay, Chandler reportedly pulled out a handgun and shot Khasem Yousef, 23, who was standing next to him in front of the camera and then shooting Faares Yousef, 17, who was behind the camera.
Chandler then jumped over the counter, took cash from the register and cigarettes from a rack before jumping back over and leaving the store.
A customer found the bodies soon after the shooting and called police. The following day, U.S. marshals arrested Chandler at a Tampa home.
A grand jury indicted him later that month.
Chandler is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. March 17 so the defense can ask for the victims' school records from the Manatee County School District and State College of Florida. Both schools have refused to produce the records which the defense states are necessary for in order to prepare for trial.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.