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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Ocala man denied ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense in double-homicide

An Ocala man charged with two murders was denied his request to dismiss the case based on the Stand Your Ground defense.

Jason Thomas Cole, who is being charged with two counts of second degree murder for the deaths of Michael White and Lezhan Studivant in October 2019, was denied the request earlier this month by Judge Steven G. Rodgers of the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

Ocala man denied ‘Stand Your Ground defense in double homicide
Jason Thomas Cole

According to Marion County court records, Cole claims that he was set up for an alleged robbery and attacked the victims in self defense.

The state proved otherwise, according to Judge Rodgers.

“Based upon the evidence presented at the hearing conducted on May 27, and the arguments of counsel, the court does find the State of Florida presented clear and convincing evidence to overcome the Defendant’s immunity from criminal prosecution in this case,” reads the order.

Multiple witnesses disputed Cole’s account of the incident, saying he became enraged and starting yelling at the victims before shooting them in a vehicle in which six individuals were riding. According to court records and witness accounts, Cole hit Studivant in the back of the head before shooting him multiple times and then turning the gun on White.

Cole will now stand trial for the October 31, 2019 shooting deaths of Studivant and White.

In the two years since the victims’ deaths, family and friends have continued to mourn the loss of the two men.

“I sit and wonder if you miss me as much as I miss you. They keep saying it gets easier, but I’m telling you, it’s not,” reads a recent Facebook post from Studivant’s parents.

Lezhan Studivant
Lezhan Studivant was shot and killed on October 31, 2019. He was 23 years old.

“I just wish everyone could see the side of my brother that I knew. I miss him more than words could ever express,” reads a Facebook post from Studivant’s sister, Shyiane.

Commonly known as the “Stand Your Ground Defense,” Florida Statute 776 provides for immunity for a person who uses force when he/she “reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

Cole, who has pled not guilty to the charges, now awaits a pretrial conference in August.