NO TRIAL DATE FOR BREWER MURDER CASE

Garrett Hughes, 21, was fatally shot in the stomach in the early-morning hours of Feb. 13. CONTRIBUTED

Lloyd Preston Brewer III hasn’t budged from the county jail on Stock Island since his Feb. 13 arrest on a murder charge in the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Garrett Hughes in the parking lot of Conch Town Liquor & Lounge in Key West, which has since closed down. 

Brewer, 58, of Key West, remains jailed without bond and charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for threatening the victim’s brother with the gun, and violating a concealed firearm permit for having a gun in a bar.

Brewer’s trial date initially was set for November at the Monroe County Courthouse, but that was scrapped, one of several dates that will likely fall off the calendar as legal motions and rulings continue. 

The crux of Brewer’s defense so far is Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which, if granted by a judge, could protect Brewer from prosecution. But prosecutors contend that security footage of the shooting does not support a Stand Your Ground defense, which requires a person to reasonably believe that deadly force is needed to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. 

“The shirtless victim was clearly intoxicated and urinating on the wall when the suspect approached. There are no weapons on or near the victim, nor is the victim seen reaching for anything,” Joe Mansfield, chief assistant state attorney, told the Keys Weekly the day after the shooting in February. 

Brewer’s defense lawyers are challenging “everything under the sun,” Mansfield told the Keys Weekly on Nov. 28. “They want to change the venue, change the judge, take the case to Tavernier or Miami. They’re fighting it from all angles.”

In court filings, Brewer’s lawyers say they have good reason to fight. 

Lloyd Preston Brewer III, who is charged with murder for the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Garrett Hughes in February, remains jailed without bond. MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE/Contributed

“The general state of mind of the inhabitants of Key West, Monroe County, Florida, has been negatively and unfairly affected by false and misleading descriptions of the incident,” Brewer’s attorney Jerome A. Ballarotto wrote in a June 23 motion asking the judge to restrict public comment by prosecutors and an attorney representing the Hughes family in a civil case. “Such knowledge is accompanied by prejudice, bias and preconceived opinions which may make it practically and psychologically impossible to obtain a fair and impartial jury (in Key West) if counsel and the state are permitted to continue to make such prejudicial extrajudicial statements.”

Brewer’s lawyers didn’t return a message seeking comment.

On Nov. 13, Acting Circuit Judge Mark Wilson denied Brewer’s motion asking the judge to step down from the case because he is married to a prosecutor in Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward’s office. 

There’s no dispute that Brewer shot Hughes outside the former Conch Town bar the night of Feb. 12, which was Super Bowl Sunday.  

At issue, in the legal system, is whether he had the intent to kill and whether deadly force was justified. 

Security footage of the parking lot behind the bar, which has no audio, shows a shirtless Garrett Hughes visibly drunk and standing between two cars in the parking lot while urinating.

Brewer is seen exiting the bar and noticing Hughes across the parking lot. Brewer appears to call out to Hughes and then can be seen drawing a handgun from his jeans pocket or waistband while crossing the parking lot toward Hughes.

Brewer initially stops a few feet from Hughes with his gun drawn. Brewer then moves closer to Hughes and raises his arms as if to fight. It is unclear without audio how close Brewer was to Hughes when he shot him in the stomach. 

Brewer called 911 to report the shooting while standing over Hughes. He told the dispatcher the young man “came at him aggressively,” according to the 911 recording.

“The allegation that he was justified in using deadly force is not substantiated by the video evidence in this case,” prosecutor Mansfield told the Keys Weekly in February. 

Witnesses on the scene included Hughes’ brother, Carson Hughes, and another friend. 

Hughes was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center, where he died a short time later. Brewer was arrested, interviewed for several hours at the Key West Police Department, then booked into the jail.

Brewer’s next court date is Jan. 4, 2024. But it could be a year before a trial, Mansfield said, adding, “Now with all these motions and appeals it’s going to take some time.”

Hughes was a standout athlete at Key West High School, where his father is the football coach, a fisherman and a volunteer youth coach.

Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.