Editor’s note: DeLandite Quentin Wyche, now 32, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013. Recently released from prison, Wyche, and his mother, Wendy, have never stopped trying to overturn his conviction.
The Beacon has published a series of articles following his efforts.
This article, the fourth in our series, outlines the conclusion of his legal case.
Read our previous coverage online at www.beacononlinenews.com.
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Quentin Wyche’s long road through Florida’s legal system has ended. His second-degree murder conviction will be erased. He’s no longer a convicted felon.
At a hearing in Miami Nov. 25, DeLand native Wyche, convicted in 2013 in the stabbing death of a Florida International University football player, convinced Judge Miguel de la O that he deserves a new trial.
Six years to the day since Wyche was sentenced to 20.5 years in prison, the same judge who sentenced him, de la O, offered Wyche a choice: go forward with that new trial, or accept a plea deal.
The deal would reduce his charge to manslaughter with adjudication withheld — no finding of guilt, no conviction — and Wyche would immediately be released from the term of probation that was part of his original sentence with credit for time served.
Wyche at first wanted the new trial.
“When the lawyer said the judge will grant my motion, in my head I was thinking, let’s do it. Let’s go to trial,” he told The Beacon.
As ready as Wyche was, in his six-year legal battle he’s learned some lessons.
After a 20-minute conference with his family and his attorney, Wyche accepted the deal.
“I try to calculate my moves now so I won’t make more costly mistakes. And my decisions, I think about who it could affect. I am a brother, I am a son, and those things play a part,” Wyche said. “I didn’t make it about me when it came to my decision. I thought about my family and friends.”
Wyche’s five-year term of probation was immediately terminated.
Wyche can now vote, and buy a gun, if he wants.
“They said my rights are restored,” Wyche said.
The outcome is somewhat bittersweet for Wyche. For six years, he had one goal — a new trial, and a chance to tell his side of the story.
His trial lawyer in 2013 convinced Wyche not to testify in the original trial, Wyche said.
Without Wyche’s testimony, proving self-defense was a nearly insurmountable goal, as proving self-defense hinges on the defendant’s intention.
“I went this far in fighting so I could have the opportunity to tell my side of the story,” Wyche said.
He could see himself, at a new trial, doing it, he said.
“You dream of that day coming. That was one of my goals I had envisioned. You tell your story in your head — you see yourself winning, see yourself accomplishing what you had in mind. That’s what I worked hard for,” Wyche said. “Anytime you work hard for something, you want to obtain it. I worked hard to achieve that goal. I do feel like I came up short, but at the same time I have no regret.”
The costs of a new trial, and the risks, were large. Judge de la O would not be his trial judge again, which meant de la O’s rulings, including a downward departure of the sentence that reduced Wyche’s sentence from 20.5 to 11 years, would not apply.
If Wyche did not win at a new trial, he could have faced a new sentence of at least 20 years.
It would have meant once again putting life on hold. The original trial took place three years after the event. A new trial could take nearly as long to happen.
And even though Wyche is convinced that the law is on his side, ultimately the verdict is decided by people — by a jury.
“I’m not fighting the law — I am fighting people,” Wyche said. “This is my story, and I took this route to protect myself from people more so than the law.”
The story he never told
After arguing with Regina Johnson, the girlfriend of FIU football player Kendall Berry, earlier in the day March 25, 2010, Wyche had just finished playing in a championship intramural basketball game at the FIU recreation center.
Antwoine Bell testified at the original trial that he had told Wyche that Berry wanted to confront him.
Bell, Wyche said, told him, “You know that girl from earlier is someone’s girlfriend.”
Another person Wyche didn’t know told him someone who wanted to fight him was outside the recreation center. When Wyche asked who wanted to fight, the person said they didn’t know.
Suspicious, he put a pair of scissors in his pocket in case something happened.
When he walked out with his friend Anthony Cooper he quickly realized that a crowd of people was waiting for him down the path away from the gym.
“I felt like at any moment I could be attacked by an individual, or a group,” Wyche said.
“I knew the type of situation,” Wyche said. “He didn’t try to talk to me; he came up trying to fight, with a whole group of people behind him shouting.”
Wyche ran away. The scissors stayed in his pocket until the group caught up with him outside of the rec-center doors.
There, they grabbed him. Wyche’s hair was styled in long dreadlocks at the time, and he was being pulled from multiple directions, he said.
“I didn’t take them out till they actually grabbed me,” Wyche said.
He got out the scissors, and brandished them so the group would back off. Someone — a man he later learned was Berry — tackled him.
As Wyche was on the ground, being kicked and punched, the group of people attacking him slowed down, he said. They realized something had happened.
“They kinda stopped. I saw shock in their faces,” Wyche said. “I looked to the left, saw [the man he later learned was] Kendall laying there — I am thinking he was knocked out.”
Wyche got to his feet, and ran to Cooper, who was getting attacked by multiple people.
“I shoved them off, and we ran inside,” Wyche said.
Cooper suffered multiple injuries in the brawl, including a hairline fracture of his nose and a ruptured rotator cuff, records show.
Cooper was bleeding, Wyche said, and fell to the ground once inside the building.
As Wyche shouted for help and tried to tend to Cooper, he started to realize there was blood on the ground outside, and one of the people who attacked him wasn’t getting up.
It began to dawn on him that Berry may have been hit by the scissors.
“That’s when I think, ‘Oh, he got stabbed,’” Wyche said.
A group of Berry’s friends ran into the gym. Wyche tried to get them to back off, and yelled at them to take care of their friend.
Wyche grabbed Cooper and found an exit. As they were leaving, someone, a female rec-center employee, he thinks, tried to stop them.
“She ran up on me, on the same side as the scissors. I had to push her away with my other hand so I wouldn’t accidentally stab her,” Wyche said.
As he ran through campus, someone tried to block him in a crowd.
Realizing that, in his panic, someone could be hurt, he threw the scissors in the nearest trash can, he said.
He was somewhere on the other side of campus.
He had no idea who had confronted him. He had no idea someone was dead.
He doesn’t remember any blood on the scissors.
He drove to his uncle’s house that night. The story of Berry’s death was widely reported.
Twenty-four hours later, Wyche gave himself up to Miami-Dade police.
The details of the day, which Wyche has never publicly told, and which consumed his life for almost 10 years, may not matter anymore, he said.
The case is over, and Wyche is a free man.
Wyche lives with his cousin in Deltona, and works at a concrete manufacturing plant there. He’s training for a position that could pay up to $25 an hour, and is considering going into electrical engineering.
He has a 9-year-old son he has seen once.
His girlfriend in college gave birth while he was in prison. After he was convicted, she moved to California, got married, and terminated his parental rights.
Because of the state’s deal, Wyche can now work on regaining his rights to his son.
He’s back with his community in West Volusia.
Once upon a time, the news media dogged his steps. If he was recognized in the street, it was from someone who saw him as an alleged murderer.
At the Nov. 25 hearing in Miami, only one newspaper person from his hometown community newspaper was there to witness the reversal.
Wyche runs into people he hasn’t seen in years. Those who know his story sometimes hug him, and cry.
“Mostly older ladies,” he said.
The motion that stuck
Of the 12 grounds for challenging Quentin Wyche’s sentence that were presented to Judge Miguel de la O, it wasn’t the omitted statement of a key witness, or the fact that a juror was sleeping during trial, that convinced de la O that Wyche could have a new trial.
Instead, it was the fact that the jury in Wyche’s 2013 trial had been asked whether Wyche was justified in his use of “deadly force,” and not “non-deadly force.”
The distinction is critical. Even though someone died as a result, in a self-defense argument, the force used in the Quentin Wyche/Kendall Berry encounter is, by law, non-deadly.
Florida courts have held that only the discharge of a gun is considered deadly force. As the weapon in question was a pair of scissors, and the original defense attorney was arguing accidental injury as a result of self-defense, the jury should have been asked whether Wyche was justified in use of non-deadly force.
Non-deadly force has a much lower burden – a person needs only to reasonably believe they must defend themselves against “unlawful force” of another.
Deadly force is justifiable only if the person reasonably believes they are facing an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm.
– Eli Witek