January 4, 2023 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

Most criminal cases are investigated by detectives who are seeking the truth, and sometimes what seems like reliable evidence does not stand up to par after closer inspection. Something similar happened in this year-old case out of Clearwater, Florida, where a man accused of throwing another person overboard had his case dropped after the initial evidence did not merit prosecution.

This article will provide information on this year-old case, information on Manslaughter charges in Florida along with details on how testing the reliability of evidence is crucial in criminal prosecution.

What is a Manslaughter Charge?

Manslaughter is charged by the State when a person is killed accidentally, and the person charged is responsible for the deceased’s death. Do not think that the charge shouldn’t be taken seriously though, as the accused faces a lengthy prison sentence if found guilty.

Under Florida Statute Section 782.07, the legislation defines manslaughter as the killing of another human being by either an act, procurement, or culpable negligence without a lawful justification. Manslaughter is applicable in cases where the killing is not an excusable homicide or murder.

Manslaughter is considered a Second-Degree Felony. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine, up to 15 years in prison, and up to 15 years of probation.

For a person to be convicted of Manslaughter, they do not need to have planned or intended to kill the victim. The accused need only have acted in a way that lacked regard for ordinary care and caution, which resulted in the death of another person.

To learn more about Manslaughter and how it’s different to murder in Florida, read our informative page here.

Example Case; The Boating Incident

According to the Arrest Affidavit, detectives believed that on December 3, 2021, Shane Dugan threw Lonnie Wilson on the evening hours off his 1982 Catalina Yachts Fiberglass Sail Boat in the Intracoastal Waterway of the Gulf of Mexico. Detectives were informed that Dugan and the deceased, Wilson, engaged in an argument and that Dugan grabbed the deceased by the front of his jacket and threw him into the water over the boat’s edge.

Wilson was found deceased the next day, floating in the Gulf of Mexico about 1.5 miles offshore. Wilson’s body was recovered and Investigators were told by at least three different people that Shane Dugan had killed him.

One of the witnesses, Ligia Bello, told police that there was a video showing Dugan throwing the deceased overboard. Another witness, David Kluever, claimed that Dugan had confessed to him via Snapchat to having thrown the deceased off his boat.

The third and final witness, James McManus, was an elderly man who had originally told investigators that he was pretty inebriated and that he didn’t remember if the deceased had come with him and Dugan on the boat. After the initial interview, McManus changed his story and told the investigators a different version of events.

McManus stated that, while he was driving the boat back to Sand Key Bridge, the deceased had started to argue with Dugan. At one point the deceased started to act like he was going to punch Dugan and Dugan threatened to throw the deceased off his boat. The deceased did not listen and when he stood up again Dugan pushed him off his boat.

According to this new testimony by McManus, Dugan told him to leave the deceased there and that he did what he was told due to fear of being thrown overboard as well.

Responses to the Above Case; Unreliable Evidence for an Arrest

According to Arrest Affidavit, Shane Dugan was arrested on December 10th, 2021 around 11:55 am. Dugan posted his $20,000 bail bond and was released under GPS monitoring two days after his arrest.

Once police started investigating the stories from the above witnesses, things started to change. Not only did a search of the phone that allegedly had received the above-mentioned video not turn up footage of Dugan throwing the deceased overboard, but the alleged Snapchat confession was also never produced.

Additionally, the lead witness passed away six months after the incident. Due to the death of McManus and the unreliable evidence that was never found, Dugan’s charges were dismissed by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office.

To learn more about bail bonds, bail hearings, and what to do if you or a loved one is denied bail, you can read our page on bail bonds.

Fighting Criminal Charges; Ensuring the Evidence Exists and is Reliable

The above case is an excellent example of how a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. While the police and investigators are required to find the truth of the allegations presented by the public, a defendant can take a proactive approach to their criminal investigation.

This is where expert witnesses can play key roles in proving the defendant’s guilt or innocence in criminal cases. As technology has evolved, ensuring that the right expert takes a look at the prosecutor’s evidence can help the judge or jury make the right decision.

If you are facing a crime involving digital evidence, it is of the utmost importance that you understand how digital forensics works. A computer forensic expert witness can assist in your defense by analyzing, retrieving, and acquiring digital evidence for court. 

To learn more about the general science behind a computer forensic expert witness, read our informative page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you love is being accused of a crime, make sure to seek out legal guidance. While criminal convictions can lead to expensive fines, being imprisoned is one of the most serious repercussions. The best way to protect yourself or your loved one is to work with a skilled defense attorney in your area.

Don Pumphrey and his legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing Florida citizens from all walks of life. Our team will work tirelessly to build a strong defense for your case. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Jesus Lozano

Back to Top