Crime

Frank Brice found not guilty of killing Teria'le Rawls at Bradenton movie theater parking lot

MANATEE -- One family left in tears. Another left cheering and rejoicing.

After about three hours of deliberations, a jury found Frank Brice not guilty in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Teria'le Rawls.

Rawls' family left the courthouse in tears, most too upset to speak.

"It wasn't fair, whether his gun shot her or not," one family member said. "That child doesn't deserve to be dead."

She and others embraced Rawls' grandmother and mother. Rawls father left too distraught to speak to anyone.

Brice showed no emotion as the clerk read the verdict. His supporters erupted in applause as the jury left, bursting out of the courtroom and rushing out of the courthouse.

In the early morning hours of July 28, Rawls was shot in the head during an exchange of gunfire in the parking lot outside the Bradenton Carmike Royal Palm 20 theater, 5126 26th St. E., near U.S. 301 at State Road 70. She died 10 minutes later as she was being rushed to the hospital by her sister and friends.

Brice, 19, of Palmetto, was charged with being a principal to second-degree murder. He was arrested July 29 after turning himself in after detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest in Rawls' death.

After a week-long trial where emotions ran high and the jury expressed concerns they were being intimidated, security was heightened both in and outside the courthouse.

"We are starting to feel concerned by the crowd's attitude and volume and behavior," the jury wrote in a note to Circuit Judge Diana Moreland on Thursday.

"We witnessed conflict at the bottom of stairs and glares at lunch."

Brice returned to the Manatee County jail Friday after the verdict, as he is still facing additional charges. In the fatal shooting of Rawls, Brice still faces a charge of possession of a firearm by someone under 24 years of age previously found delinquent.

In an unrelated case, Brice is charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a victim between the ages of 12 and 16. That case is set to go to trial during the two-week trial period beginning April 27.

Attorneys presented their closing arguments Friday morning.

"This is the bullet that leaves the barrel of a 9 mm semi-automatic, fired in the parking of the Royal Palm movie theater at approximately 1:41 a.m. on July 28, 2014," Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten began as he held the bullet in the air. "This is the bullet that enters the chin of 17-year-old Teria'le Rawls. This, ladies and gentleman, this the bullet that takes Teria'le's short life."

Brice and co-defendant Jasper Dudley were working as a team that night," Iten said.

"What was the goal, it was to shoot the people from Sarasota," he said.

The prosecutor then recapped the rivalry that exists between some young people from Manatee and Sarasota counties, according to witness testimony.

"Yes, I know it sounds stupid," Iten said. "And on July 28 it was not only stupid, it was deadly."

After a long week, defense attorney Terra Carroll told the jury, justice was needed.

"Yes, the family deserves justice, but Frank deserves justice as well," Carroll said.

During the trial, some witnesses testified they saw Brice with a gun the night Rawls was killed. But often, witnesses contradicted themselves and each other.

"This case is drowning in reasonable doubt," Carroll said.

Dudley faces identical charges, and will stand trial during a two-week period beginning April 27.

Brice and Dudley are in custody at the Manatee County jail.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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