A Pembroke Pines man accused of recruiting two others to kill his father and stepmother was found not guilty Monday.
Andrew Nelson, 22, pumped his fist and embraced his defense lawyer after the verdict was read, mouthing the words "thank you" to the eight men and four women who deliberated for three full days before returning their not-guilty verdict.
Nelson was accused of having two men enter his Pembroke Pines home on Sept. 29, 2009, and standing by as one of the men shot his father and stepmother as they slept. Scott Nelson, 57, a Florida Power & Light Co. employee, died two days later.
But the stepmother, Julie Nelson, survived the attack. Awakened by the gunshot that killed her husband, she tried unsuccessfully to avoid the bullets aimed at her, then played dead until the assailants left her bedroom. She told jurors that she saw two men standing at the foot of her bed — a black man holding a gun and Andrew Nelson, her stepson. She said she also heard a third man in the room but never saw him.
She said her stepson did nothing to stop the shooting.
Andrew Nelson, who testified last week, denied having anything to do with his father's death.
"There's nothing he could do that would make me want to do anything like that," he said.
His stepmother said Andrew Nelson resented her relationship with his father, resented the money his father spent on her engagement ring, and resented the possible impact her marriage might have on his inheritance.
But defense lawyer Jim Lewis raised doubts about whether Julie Nelson really saw her stepson standing in her bedroom the night she was shot.
"I think it came down to whether it was reasonable that somebody in that kind of setting could identify somebody," Lewis said after the verdict was read Monday. "The jury got it right. I believed in Andrew's innocence when I took this case and I still do."
Julie Nelson and members of her family left the courtroom Monday without commenting. Prosecutor Al Ribas left with them.
The actual shooter and accomplice have never been identified.
Jurors began deliberating late Wednesday afternoon and promptly asked for a readback of the testimony of the victim and the defendant. After being told how time-consuming that would be, the jurors rescinded that request.
They continued all day Thursday and Friday without reaching a verdict. As the hours and days passed, they asked no questions and never gave any indication that they were at an impasse. The verdict was reached at about 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Throughout the trial, Nelson's mother, Marci Nelson, was the only family member to show support for the defendant, sitting on his side of the courtroom and politely avoiding contact with Julie Nelson's family.
"I always knew he was innocent," she said Monday. "I knew the truth would come out. I believed that God would let the truth be known."
She said her son would never have harmed his father.
"They loved each other," she said. "My son adored his father."
But Andrew Nelson's legal troubles are not over. He is in the middle of a 15-year prison term for a 2007 armed burglary charge when he was 16 years old. He pleaded no contest to that charge after he was accused of having his father killed. Lewis said he will seek to have his client's sentence reduced.
email@example.com, 954-356-4457, Twitter @SSCourts