A Broward judge said Thursday that she can’t allow a Pembroke Pines man to be charged with premeditated murder in the death of a teen during an alleged drug buy — a decision that confounded the dead man’s family while drawing praise from the defendant’s lawyers.
Daniel Estevan Baquero, 23, was facing a possible charge of first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison if he had been charged and convicted. The judge’s decision is not final, but it raises the likelihood that Baquero will soon be free on bond and, even if convicted, may not spend the rest of his life in prison.
Broward Judge Corey Amanda Cawthon said she was forced for now to agree with defense lawyers who said it was not a premeditated murder case. The lawyers painted the shooting of Ja’Shun Jones, 17, as a case of self-defense. According to a report on Baquero’s arrest, Jones pulled a gun and pointed it at Baquero’s friend during a marijuana deal Sunday at the Avant apartment complex on the 11800 block of Southwest 16th Street in Pembroke Pines.
Baquero produced his own handgun and fired at Jones as he fled, the report says.
“The bottom line was this kid tried to commit an armed robbery and lost his life as a result,” said defense lawyer Bruce Raticoff.
The judge’s decision was a bitter pill for Jones’ family to swallow.
“I don’t know what kind of investigation has been done on this case. I am very confused,” said his grandfather, Fidelis Ezewike. “We believe this was premeditated before they got there. Why are we saying there is no probable cause? We have a kid, a 17-year old, dead. What kind of investigation is that?”
Criminal charges are still possible as the investigation continues, according to the Broward State Attorney’s Office. Baquero still could face a lesser homicide charge, including second-degree murder or manslaughter.
“We cannot comment in detail because this is an active criminal investigation,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Paula McMahon. “But our prosecutors have spoken with the victim’s family members and assured them that we are working with Pembroke Pines detectives on this active criminal investigation.”
The judge made that possibility clear to the victim’s family during a Thursday hearing. “I would like to be clear with the family,” Cawthon said, “if additional evidence is uncovered, the State Attorney’s Office does have the ability to bring whatever filing charges they feel are supported by the evidence.”
Baquero remained in custody Thursday evening. He faces related charges of evidence tampering.