Lakeland man wins 'stand your ground' murder case

- What happened to Joseph Amore could happen to anyone. He was out with friends in Ybor City when a man attacked him. 

Amore defended himself, resulting in the death of his attacker. He was charged with murder, but was found not guilty based on a "stand your ground" defense. 

Amore said he was hanging out with his friends on a hot day in August when, out of nowhere, he was sucker-punched by Josh Rankin.

"He would have never lost his life if he wouldn't have bullied me into defending my life," Amore told FOX 13 News after the case was over. " I was rendered unconscious. The sucker punch knocked me out."

When he regained consciousness, he said he remembers being attacked again - this time by Rankin and two other men.

The attack was caught on surveillance video. Detectives said Amore pulled out a pocket knife. Amore, suffering from a concussion, didn't even remember it.

A detective had to fill in the gaps.

"He pretty much said, 'you killed someone.' I was like, 'wow.' I didn't know it was that serious, through the whole interrogation," Amore said.

Josh Rankin died of his injuries. Amore's attorney defended him using a Florida law known as 'stand your ground' to fight the murder charge. His attorney, Eddie Suarez was able to show Josh Rankin was the aggressor that day.

He also presented evidence showing Rankin was taking bath salts, also known as synthetic marijuana. The drug can cause violent, aggressive behavior, and even hallucinations.

"Which, I think, impaired his judgment ,which I think that's why he was so aggressive and violent towards Joseph. Which added to this mixture that led to this tragedy," Suarez explained.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory holder heard the case and found Amore was justified in his use of deadly force to defend himself, and an appeals court agreed with Judge Holder.

After walking away from a murder charge, Amore said he is doing what he loves: hunting, fishing, and even working. He said he's taking nothing, and no one, for granted.

"Thanks to Eddie Suarez and Judge Holder, who played a big part in my case and proving my innocence, " said Amore.

Now, he is working to rebuild his life. 

"It sucks that a year and a half of my life was stuck on house arrest to prove my innocence, but my innocence did prevail," Amore said.

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