Appeals court tosses Riviera man’s sentence in murder over bag of pot

March 07, 2018
Tyrie Theophile, 20, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in the January 2012 shooting death of Jake Duchene over a marijuana deal, is led into a Palm Beach County courtroom on August 4, 2016, for his sentencing hearing. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

A 22-year-old Riviera Beach man, serving 45 years in prison in connection with the 2012 shooting death of a Palm Springs teen over a bag of pot, won a chance on Wednesday for a new sentence.

The case that ignited deep passions among both families must return to court because, in sentencing Tyrie Theophile for the murder of 17-year-old Jake Duchene, a judge erroneously said Theophile “pulled out a firearm” and “brandished a firearm,” the 4th District Court of Appeal wrote. In convicting Theophile of second-degree murder, the jury ruled that Theophile did not have a gun.

The conflict between the jury’s verdict and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Karen Miller’s statements are “impossible to reconcile,” the West Palm Beach appeals court said in ordering a new sentencing hearing for Theophile.

The decision doesn’t necessarily mean that Theophile’s sentence will be reduced. He faced a maximum life sentence and a minimum term of nearly 24 years after he was convicted in 2015 of second-degree murder in Duchene’s death, court records show.

Miller sentenced him to 35 years on the second-degree murder charge to be followed by 10 years imprisonment on a charge of aggravated battery. A 10-year sentence on a charge of robbery can be served during the same 45 years, she ruled.

Theophile’s family railed against the sentence, claiming the evidence showed he hadn’t shot Duchene outside a house on Windsor Avenue south of 45th Street. Trial testimony indicated as many as five people were involved but only Theophile, then 16, was arrested. Citing his young age and his troubled upbringing, his attorney pushed for a 15-year sentence.

Prosecutors, who asked for a 65-year sentence, countered that text messages showed Theophile set up the marijuana deal and texted people afterward, acknowledging that he was in big trouble.

Duchene’s distraught mother, Renee, and other family members had urged Miller to impose a life sentence. But, because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings outlawing life sentences without parole for juveniles, such as sentence was unlikely.

No date for the resentencing has been set.