Suspect found guilty of first-degree murder in fatal crash while fleeing police

Updated:

Loading
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

A man accused of causing a deadly crash while fleeing police in Orange County has been found guilty of first-degree murder.

Gangapersad Ramroop, 23, was found guilty Wednesday after he killed innocent father Robert Hunter in a crash near Powers and Colonial drives.

The sentencing phase of the trial is now underway.

Police said it was after the gunfire that Ramroop ran a red light near the intersection and slammed into an SUV, killing the driver, Hunter, 25, a father of six.

Court had been a series of delays and sidebars that began in the morning when a juror said he watched Channel 9's report Tuesday night, even though he wasn't supposed to.

The defense also called for a mistrial over a shirt someone was wearing in the courtroom Wednesday. The shirt was worn by Hunter's friend and had an image of Hunter on it.

"Perhaps they would've come back differently on the verdict, but because someone is in here with a T-shirt, they have sympathy," the defense argued.

Also up for debate was the stifled snickering Ray spotted State Attorney Jeff Ashton doing behind his hand while the defense presented a theory about how a bullet made it into Ramroop's car door.

"The defendant's version, I would submit to you, defies common sense," Ashton said.

It's not the first time Ashton has been called out for laughing in court. Chief Judge Belvin Perry asked Ashton to stop showing his emotions during Casey Anthony's trial, in which Ashton was the prosecutor.

Ramroop admitted he tried to elude police on the morning of July 4 because he was carrying an illegal gun.

"Pointing a gun out the window and firing four or five shots is sufficient for a case of attempted first-degree murder," said Ashton.

Channel 9's Karla Ray said the defense twice called for a mistrial on Wednesday because of Ashton's actions.

  One of the defense's two witnesses, Ramroop, a four-time convicted felon, took the stand Wednesday and gave his side of the story.

"Did you fire a gun toward a police officer?" Ramroop was asked on the stand.

"Absolutely not," he replied.

Ramroop insisted he fired the gun to celebrate Independence Day, not at the officers following him.

"Why did you fire your gun?" Ramroop was asked.

"That's what we do, celebrating July Fourth and New Year's, et cetera," Ramroop said.

Christopher Brillant was a police officer involved in the chase.

Personally prosecuting his first case as state attorney, Ashton focused on proving Ramroop's actions were attempted murder to evade capture.

"Is it a general celebration on Fourth of July to shoot at police officers?" Ashton asked Brillant.

"No sir, it's not," Brillant replied.

Because prosecutors allege the deadly accident happened during the commission of a crime, a grand jury indicted Ramroop on a charge of first-degree murder.

"Just because you don't want to go to prison doesn't mean you're going to turn into a killer," said Ramroop's defense attorney.

"Mr. Hunter's death is on (Ramroop)," Ashton said.

Both sides rested their cases Tuesday afternoon.