TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Hillsborough County judge denied a motion from Michael Keetley’s defense team that would have added yet another delay to the former ice cream vendor standing trial for two murders and four attempted murders on Thanksgiving Day 2010.
Keetley’s lawyers requested a motion to strike the panel of nearly 60 potential jurors after the judge dismissed a man who made an abrupt comment when being questioned about the defendant’s presumption of innocence.
“Well, after he shot two people and then went on to shoot four more, I think he’s pretty well in charge of who he was shooting,” the prospective juror said.
“Well, and sir, let me jump in, “ Judge Christopher Sabella said. “That’s what the trial is about. That absolutely has not been proven.”
Keetley’s defense attorneys and the state’s prosecutors agreed to allow several other potential jurors to leave before the selection process resumed after 2 p.m.
When the remaining potential jurors returned to the courtroom, the judge apologized for the delay and informed them the juror who made the comments was “no longer with us.”
The judge told them to disregard the comments and asked them whether they could be fair and impartial for the rest of the case.
The judge told the courtroom that Keatley entered the please of not guilty and he has the presumption of innocence for every allegation in the indictment.
He also reminded the potential jurors that the state has the burden to prove Keetley is guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the charges in the indictment.
Deputies arrested Keetley in December 2010 for the shooting deaths of brothers Sergio and Juan Guitron. Prosecutors said he also wounded four other men during the early morning shooting spree on a porch at a home in Ruskin.
“Investigators said he was seeking revenge from a person known as “Creeper,” according to an 8 On Your Side report from 2010.
“We believe he went to the wrong residence and he had bad intelligence where this guy was,” former Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said at a news conference announcing the arrest.
Months before the arrest, 8 On Your Side interviewed Keetley after he was the victim of a robbery and shooting at his ice cream truck.
“I remember thinking like you just shot me in the leg and they just unloaded their guns,” Keetley told 8 On Your Side’s Chip Osowski.
So why has this former ice cream man waited longer than any other defendant in Hillsborough County to stand trial?
Keetley’s original defense attorney passed away.
The state’s standard for how courts admit expert testimony has waffled back and forth in recent years.
There have also been changes to Florida’s death penalty laws before the state ended its pursuit of putting Keetley on death row in February 2019.
Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner said he has 45 witnesses lined up and ready to go.
Jury selection is expected to continue Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. and the judge said he is hopeful opening statements will begin after lunch.