Victim: Robert Mears Jr. (killed)
The accused: James Behanna

Robert_Mears

Robert Mears Jr.

White male

Age at time: 21

Weapon: unarmed

 
Behanna

James Behanna

White male

Age at time: 36

Weapon: knife

knife

Defendant photo: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Case type:
Argument turned violent

Location:
Other Private Property

Initiator:
Victim

Witnesses:
Yes

Case year:
2005

Location details: Near a law firm in Tampa, Hillsborough County, on Dec. 07, 2005

What happened: Paralegal James Behanna fatally stabbed a man after he refused to leave the yard at his wife's Tampa law firm. Robert Mears Jr. was upset after a confrontation with his roommate and had walked to the nearby law office. Behanna came out with a shovel to keep Mears away from his wife and was attacked. When Mears finally began to walk away, Behanna followed him for about 150 feet. That's when he said Mears tried to choke him and he had to defend himself with a pocketknife. The second stab pierced Mears' heart. Mears was unarmed, and one witness said he only pushed Behanna.

The outcome: Behanna was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years prison, but an appeals court granted him a new trial. He then entered into a plea deal that gave him a reduced sentence of 42 months probation.

Investigating agency: Tampa Police

Case decision made by: Plea

Trayvon Martin’s death became controversial because circumstances leading up to the shooting cast doubt on who was to blame. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed other “stand your ground” cases for similar circumstances. The Times relied on available information, some of which may not tell the whole story. When the situation was unclear, that was noted.

Yes No Unclear/
disputed

Did the victim initiate the confrontation?

Check

Was the victim armed?

Check

Was the victim committing a crime that led to the confrontation?

Check

Did the defendant pursue the victim?

Check

Could the defendant have retreated to avoid the conflict?

Check

Was the defendant on his or her property?

Check

Did someone witness the attack?

Check

Was there physical evidence?

Check

Source: Tampa Bay Times, April 9, 2010.

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Case last updated: Aug. 10, 2013