Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Overturns Conviction in Store Owner's Assault; Prosecutors Questioned Work of a Defense Investigator before the Jury

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Overturns Conviction in Store Owner's Assault; Prosecutors Questioned Work of a Defense Investigator before the Jury

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

A Jacksonville man who prosecutors say left a trail of blood in an assault of the owner of a 103rd Street convenience store will be getting a new trial after an appellate court threw out his conviction.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee has unanimously overturned the felony conviction and five-year prison sentence of Gerald Duane Cribbs, 46, and ordered him retried. He is now in the Duval County jail and has been behind bars since his arrest 2 1/2 years ago.

The conviction was overturned because prosecutors questioned the work of a defense investigator in front of the jury, which was objected to and the appeals court found put the burden of proof inappropriately on the defense.

"Both my co-counsel and myself were dismayed at the outcome of the trial because we felt that there was not adequate proof presented to determine Mr. Cribbs guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," said defense attorney Rachel Schumont, who was an assistant public defender at the time and has since moved to California. "Learning that Mr. Cribbs will have an opportunity to receive a fair trial was good news for me and I'm sure for Mr. Cribbs as well."

Cribbs had been kicked out of the convenience store several times for harassing female customers in October 2010. After the third time, customers complained to the owner that Cribbs was still outside bothering people, his arrest report said.

The owner went to make sure Cribbs wasn't on his property, then turned to walk back into the store and someone hit him in the back of the head. …

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