Former Orlando Magic Player Pleads Guilty to Murder Charge

February 17, 2023 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

A former basketball player for the Orlando Magic is set to hear his sentencing for a 2021 murder case. Although the offense did not take place in Florida, this article will provide the case details along with information pertinent to the same criminal charges in Florida.

What was the Incident?

Former NBA player Keith Damon Appling, 31, has pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Clyde Edmonds, 66, in Detroit, Michigan. According to the report, Appling shot Edmonds after the two got into a heated argument on May 22nd, 2021. The two men knew each other because Edmond’s wife was Appling’s mother.

After Appling shot Edmonds, his girlfriend drove him away from the scene. Police arrived at the home in Detroit to find Edmonds on the front lawn with multiple gunshot wounds. The victim was taken to the hospital but was pronounced dead not long after arrival. Appling was later charged with the murder in June 2021. In addition to the murder, Appling was also facing a firearm charge for the incident.

Just as the murder trial was set to begin on Monday, Appling pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder charge as well as the firearm charge. According to the prosecution, the defendant’s plea agreement calls for a sentence of 18 to 40 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections and two years of a consecutive sentence for the felony firearm possession.

Natalie Bannister, Appling’s girlfriend, was charged with lying to a police officer and accessory after the fact for driving the defendant away from the crime. Bannister pleaded guilty to one count of lying to a police officer and has been sentenced to 18 months of probation. With the terms of her plea agreement, Bannister’s accessory after the fact charge was dropped.

Appling played basketball for the Michigan State Spartans. He finished among the university’s top leaders in starts, games played, free throws made, and overall points. The defendant briefly played for the Orlando Magic NBA team, as well as several teams overseas.

“It has been clear that this man has been spiraling downward for some time. Many of those that tried to intervene with this defendant were hoping that he would get on the right track and stay there,” said County Prosecutor Kym Worthy back in 2021. “It is always tragic when one with so much promise, talent, and possibility is alleged to have committed the most serious of crimes.” 

First vs Second Degree Murder

There are several factors that dictate whether someone’s death is considered first- or second-degree murder. Some of the defining factors include the following:

  • Premeditation;
  • Murder committed during a felony (felony murder); and/or
  • Murder committed during drug-related crimes.

Murder is defined under Florida Statute Section 782.04 as the unlawful killing of another person.

For a person to be charged with first-degree murder, the offense must have been premeditated or the killing occurred during one of the enumerated felonies. Premeditation means the person had thoughts about the violent act prior to the offense. One example of first-degree murder would be the following:

  • Tom and Jerry are neighbors. While Tom was away at work, Jerry came over to help Tom’s wife fix the sink. When Tom heard about this, he immediately believed the two had been romantically involved, despite the lack of evidence. Over the next few days, Tom continuously thinks about Jerry and plots a scheme to kill him. The next time Tom sees Jerry, he shoots and kills him. Due to the premeditation of Tom’s planning of the murder, he is charged with first-degree murder.

Another way for a person to be charged with first-degree murder is if the offense was committed while also committing, or attempting to commit, any of the following felony offenses:

  • Trafficking
  • Arson
  • Sexual Battery
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated Child Abuse
  • Aggravated Stalking
  • Carjacking
  • Any other felony offense listed under Statue Section 784.04(2).

For a person to be charged with second-degree murder, the act must be considered an unlawful killing which was the result of an act deemed dangerous to others and shows a depraved mind. Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder does not require premeditation. One example of second-degree murder would be the following:

  • Tom and Jerry are neighbors. When Tom returns home from work, Jerry is in his house helping his wife fix the sink. Instead of listening to the valid reason for his presence, Tom pulls out a gun and fatally shoots Jerry. Although Tom did not plan to kill anyone that day, his reaction was both dangerous to those around him, and showed a depraved mind for immediately killing his neighbor. Tom is then charged with second-degree murder.

While both charges differ in nature, they can both result in serious penalties. A person convicted of a first-degree murder charge then faces possible penalties of life in prison without parole, or in the most extreme cases—the death penalty. To read more about capital punishment in Florida, find our blog post here.

A person convicted of second-degree murder faces a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony carries the penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Accessory after the Fact

When a person commits a criminal offense in Florida, they might not be the only one facing criminal charges. Any person who is not closely related to the defendant and helps after the commission of a crime can be charged with “accessory after the fact.”

Florida Statute Section 777.03 explains that any person who is not the husband, wife, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, or sister of the defendant and who assists, aides, or helps the defendant who has committed a crime which was at least a third-degree felony can be charged with accessory after the fact.

The penalties for being an accessory to a criminal offense can vary depending on the actual offense committed. For instance, a third-degree felony offense in which the defendant had someone help them after the fact can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

For the case described above, Appling’s girlfriend was considered an accessory after the fact for the first-degree felony offense of second-degree murder. If she had been convicted, Bannister could have faced a second-degree felony. The penalties for a second-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Lying to the Police in Florida

Any person who lies to the police about a criminal offense in Florida can be charged with an offense under Florida Statue Section 836.05. The law states that an individual can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for providing a false report to the authorities.

The reasons for lying to the police can vary. The person may not want to appear as a “snitch” if they personally know the person who has allegedly committed a crime. They could also be trying to avoid an arrest if they were guilty of an offense. Whatever the reason may be, you should never lie to the police. In doing so, the penalties can range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on if it is the person’s first or subsequent violation of the law.

To find out more about lying to the police, read our page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

The State of Florida will prosecute harshly for violent crimes. This is especially true when someone dies because of the offense. In addition to paying fines, you may be subjected to extensive prison sentences. There is also the social stigma of obtaining a violent felony conviction on your criminal record. Even after release, it may be difficult to find a job, a place to live, or supportive friends and family.

When it comes to the possibility of being convicted of a violent crime, the stakes are entirely too high. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a violent crime in Florida, contact an experienced murder defense attorney in Tallahassee, FL. Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience representing clients across Florida for various offenses. We will work with you to build a strong defense for your case along with making sure none of your rights are violated in the process. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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