Shackled and wearing a prison jumpsuit, Christopher Dean stood in front of a judge Thursday and tearfully apologized for his role in the burglary that led to the death of a close friend in 2005.
As Dean’s mother, children and granddaughter looked on, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Karen Miller sentenced him once again to life in prison — a punishment Dean had appealed all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
“I believe Mr. Dean is extremely remorseful,” Miller said.
But, she concluded, life in prison is the minimum sentence for a felon who commits second-degree murder soon after being released for another crime. Dean’s case was reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, which didn’t overturn his conviction but last year ordered that he be resentenced.
Dean, now 38, was a petty criminal whose daytime burglary in 2005 led to a car chase. Dean’s accomplice, Eric Flint, was struck and killed by an SUV driven by the victim of the burglary.
When Flint died, Dean’s crime was elevated from a run-of-the-mill break-in to a murder case. Soon after the botched burglary, prosecutors charged Dean with second-degree murder, and they offered him a plea deal that would have sentenced him to 10 years.
Dean rejected the compromise and decided to go to trial instead. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and, because he recently had been released from prison when he committed the 2005 burglary, Dean was sentenced under Florida’s “prison releasee reoffender” guidelines, which require harsh punishment in some instances.
Assistant Public Defender Crystal Kim argued Thursday that, because Dean had no intent to harm Flint, a life sentence was too harsh. Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts countered that prosecutors frequently pursue second-degree murder charges against criminals who participate in acts that lead to an accomplice’s death by someone else’s hand.
Flint died in January 2005, after he and Dean broke into Gregory Marlow’s apartment near Village Boulevard in West Palm Beach. The two were surprised when Marlow came home for lunch. Dean and Flint fled — Dean in a car and Flint on foot.
Marlow chased Dean onto Interstate 95. As the two raced through traffic at speeds of 100 mph, Flint jumped over a fence that separated the apartment complex from the interstate. When Dean saw Flint along the highway, he stopped his Nissan Maxima to let his friend jump in. Marlow, following behind, plowed into Flint, killing him instantly.
After he was convicted, Dean appealed. He was retried and again found guilty of second-degree murder. He hoped Thursday’s hearing would yield a lighter sentence.
“It’s unfair,” said Dean’s mother, Ella Dean, after watching Miller hand down the new sentence.