A Palm Beach County jury last week acquitted a suburban Lake Worth man of second degree murder charges after he successfully argued that he was acting in self-defense when he stabbed and killed the father of his girlfriend’s children.
Kayodi Whitley could have faced up to life in prison had jurors convicted him as charged in the death in the Feb. 2, 2014 death of Derrick Zanders. But jurors on Thursday found him not guilty at after three hours of deliberations Thursday that capped a three-day trial.
Whitley was not in jail while awaiting trial, but Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo after the verdict last week released him from house arrest and the $150,000 bond that had been a condition of his pre-trial release. Whitley before the trial had rejected a plea offer that would have given him probation.
According to arrest reports, the altercation between Whitley and Zanders unfolded when Zanders brought a daughter he shared with Whitley’s then-girlfriend, Tasha Simmons, to the home Simmons shared with Whitley in the 6500 Block of Jacques Way in Lake Worth. Zanders’ girlfriend, Wiledade Augustin, was also present and told deputies that Whitley charged at Zanders with a knife and stabbed him.
Zanders died at a nearby hospital from a stab wound to his chest.
Whitley initially told deputies he never had a knife and didn’t stab Zanders, but after they told him a neighbor had a security camera that captured the altercation, he told them they did fight and he had a knife, although he denied stabbing Zanders, according to arrest reports.
The neighbor’s security footage showed the fight, but also showed Zanders at one point broke a window near the front door in an attempt to get into the house after he was turned away. Deptuies in the report said Zanders also alternated between instigating a confrontation and retreating several times during the fight.
Simmons told The Palm Beach Post in 2014 that it was a case of self-defense.
“Kayodi didn’t mean any of this and he was truly protecting his home,” Simmons said. “I just want (the family) to know I’m very, very sorry for what took place. I did everything in my power to get everybody to calm down.”
Whitley did not testify in his own defense during the trial. Assistant Public Defender Stephen Abruzow told jurors the killing was justified while Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis and Assistant State Attorney Takisha Richardson claimed that although Whitley didn’t act with premeditation, he murdered Zanders nonetheless.