Man acting as own attorney screams at jurors in opening of his death penalty case


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida man facing the death penalty for allegedly killing his girlfriend and their daughter screamed at jurors during the opening statement of his trial Monday as he served as his own defense attorney.

Ronnie Oneal III faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder over crimes that happened in March 2018. He’s accused of killing his girlfriend, 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron, and daughter, 9-year-old Ron’Niveya Oneal.

Oneal is facing the death penalty but is representing himself in court as his public defenders sit nearby. He claims he acted in self-defense and dropped his attorneys when they said Florida’s “stand your ground” defense did not apply to his case.

He began his day with a series of motions, arguing that his rights to a speedy trial had been violated and that the state attorney’s office violated rules of discovery that have not allowed him to adequately prepare his defense.

The state began its case by telling jurors that Oneal shot Barron with a shotgun, then beat her to death with the weapon when he ran out of shotgun shells, hitting her in the head repeatedly with the weapon.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon told jurors that after he beat Barron to death, Oneal ran back to his home and used a hatchet to kill his daughter. Harmon says Oneal’s daughter was autistic and had cerebral palsy. Harmon said she was unable to speak and not able to run away or defend herself.

Harmon said after he killed the girl, Oneal then stabbed his son and set him on fire with gasoline. The boy survived and told deputies he saw his father kill his mother, according to prosecutors.

After opening statements from prosecutors wrapped up, Oneal then had a chance to address the jury. As he is acting as his own attorney, the court allowed him to make an opening statement about the evidence he believes will be presented during the trial.

Oneal screamed at jurors during his opening, sounding angry as he did. Oneal told jurors the entire case against him had been fabricated.

“By the time this is all said and done, you will see who is the mass murderers in Tampa Bay,” he said.

He went on to claim that the 911 calls from his girlfriend are not real. Jurors heard the 911 call that was made by Barron as she begged for her life.

“Law enforcement tampered with evidence to meet their such high burden of proof,” Oneal claimed.

Jurors also heard on Monday from a neighbor who told the jury Barron had banged on his front door before she was beaten to death. James Gray told the jury he walked out to see a horrific scene.

“There was blood everywhere,” Gray said.

Gray told jurors Oneal’s clothes and the wall of his home were covered in blood.

Oneal questioned Gray, claiming that he had changed part of his story from the night of the crime. Gray calmly responded to each of Oneal’s questions, telling the jury he was trying to de-escalate the situation as Oneal stood over the body of his girlfriend.

Oneal’s trial is expected to last two more weeks.

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