Family of jailed killer hoping video will prove innocence
By Ken Jackson
The family of a St. Cloud man convicted and sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing two brothers outside a St. Cloud bar in 2011, hoped a new video of the night in question will help prove his innocence under the state’s Stand Your Ground law.
Thoroughly unhappy with how Clair’s case was handled in the murder of Joel and James “J.J.” Kun, Clair’s family began protesting with signs Monday outside the Osceola County Courthouse, stating that he was trying to protect himself from being beaten by the brothers.
“As a citizen, Jason had a right to defend himself,” and “How many beatings would you take before you would stand your ground?” some of the signs read.
The protest came as the Clair’s new attorney, Paul Schaeffer, of Longwood, has begun the appeals process of the verdict.
Jurors rejected the self-defense claim as Clair, 31, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder with a firearm on Oct. 25, 2012 in the June 2011 shooting outside of Lenz’s Dug-Out Bar in St. Cloud on 25-cent beer night. He also was found guilty of one count of aggravated assault with a firearm, as witnesses said he pointed the gun at April Boggs, the Kuns’ mother, and threatened to shoot her also.
Clair claimed that after he and the Kuns were thrown out of the bar after an argument about an ex-girlfriend, court records stated, they fought and the brothers beat him so badly his eyes were swollen shut. He testified that he fired his .40 caliber Glock handgun without being able to see and didn’t know he had shot anyone until told by police once in custody.
In his police mugshot, he was clearly shown beaten around the eyes and cheeks. But prosecution witnesses said the injuries came as another group of people tackled and fought with Clair to keep him from fleeing the scene, after Clair reportedly unloaded the gun’s ammunition clip into the Kuns as they lay on the ground.
Terri Clair, an aunt who said she raised Jason Clair for most of his childhood, said the initial appeals document casted doubts on the prosecution and the court’s handling of the case.
“It’s 53 pages of what the prosecution did wrong,” she said. “The court never acted on his Stand Your Ground defense, it was bypassed and never used in his defense.”
On July 9, 2002, Ninth Circuit Court Judge Jon B. Morgan was set to act on the defense’s motion that Clair was defending himself from the Kun brothers’ attack, but the hearing was postponed so new gun evidence could be reviewed. As friends and family of both sides left the courtroom, the Kuns’ father, James Kun Sr., their friend, Jeremy Milyon and Clair’s stepfather, James “Zeke” Parker, began an argument that escalated into a brawl in the foyer of Morgan’s courtroom. The three were barred from attending the rest of the trial.
Since the hearing was postponed, Clair’s lawyers hinged its case on the self defense-based Stand Your Ground laws that were a hot topic of discussion at the time, as George Zimmerman’s manslaughter trial for killing Trayvon Martin was occurring nearly the same time in Sanford.
Terri Clair said the family “sold everything that Jason had ever worked for” in order to prepare the appeal. The appeal and a new video available of the incident go together, she said.
“The three-part video shows step-by-step what really happened that night,” she said. Jason is going to walk from jail when this video hits the light of day. But then we’ll have to send him away. We’ve had people threaten to kill Jason if he ever got out of prison.”
The family said the county’s public defender’s office was still holding and reviewing the video, but family members have viewed it. Longwood defense attorney Paul Schaefer, who will handle Clair’s defense appeal, could talk little about the case, other than the appellate briefs have been filed. He could not confirm or deny the existence of the video.
“I have not seen one,” he said.
Supporters continue to maintain a Free Jason Clair Facebook page that referenced the video and mentioned Monday that, “A new day begins.”