Friends and family of the late Dominic “DJ” Broadus Jr. say the justice system has failed them after Broadus’ murderer was sentenced to only one year in prison. Even worse, that charge isn’t for Broadus’ death.
According to News4Jax, Garden Fraser was sentenced on Monday, January 25, to one year in the Baker County jail and four years of probation. While Fraser admitted to shooting Dominic Broadus Jr., he claimed self-defense. In the end, he was only charged with a felony of deleting communications on his phone after the shooting.
On February 3, 2018, Garden Fraser called the police and told them that he shot Dominic Broadus, Jr, according to the Root. When asked if he knew the victim, he responded, “Ahh, I believe I do.” In reality, however, the two had an intimate relationship. But when the police arrived at the scene and started the investigation, the situation soon started raising eyebrows and questions.
Fraser’s case was quickly turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) because Fraser was the son of former Baker County Deputy Ryan T. Fraser. A Deputy who, mind you, was fired from working in Jacksonville in 2009 after shooting an unarmed black man named Jerrick Hall. The FDLE believes Fraser first called a cousin when he was shot and that cousin advised Fraser to call his father. It was then the father who told Fraser to call 911.
Despite the authorities knowing that Fraser had Broadus’ phone on him at the time of the shooting, that phone was never recovered. In fact, prosecutors say Fraser actively worked to remove evidence from both phones.
Fraser later deleted text messages from his own phone, which prosecutors allege was an act to hide Fraser’s relationship with Broadus. However, the FDLE later recovered 115 phone calls and 35 text messages between the two. Many of them carried sexual content.
“This defendant took the actions to get rid of that phone,” said Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel in court. “Where it is, we don’t know your honor. To this day only one person knows where DJ Broadus’s phone is, that’s Garner Fraser.”
Despite having his confession, Fraser was not arrested until a year after the murder. Even then, the police only arrested him on charges of tampering with evidence. They later released him on $100,000 bond.
But why wasn’t Fraser convicted for murder? Because he stated it was an act of self-defense. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the same law that was at the heart of the controversial Trayvon Martin case in 2012, prosecutors are saddled with the job of proving that a defendant wasn’t acting in self-defense. If they can’t do that, the charge and conviction can’t go through.
In the end, the prosecutors against Garden Fraser could not prove the shooting wasn’t in self-defense. They could only charge and convict Fraser for tampering with evidence. In fact, the 4th Judicial Circuit, which took over the investigation, said there was no evidence to place other charges against Fraser.
“We have conducted an extensive investigation into the death of Dominic Broadus, Jr. and declined to bring charges against Gardener Fraser for the shooting of Broadus,” said David Chapman, Communications director for the State Attorney’s Office, in a statement. “This investigation has determined that Broadus showed up to Fraser’s private residence – an isolated property in the middle of a rural area — unannounced and uninvited. Fraser asserted that Broadus attacked him on the doorstep of his home. The investigation has not generated evidence to disprove Fraser’s claim of self-defense. The evidence in this case, Fraser’s unwavering claims of self-defense, and Florida law do not provide support for homicide charges. We are ethically prohibited from instituting criminal charges that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”
Again, Judge James Colaw has sentenced Fraser to one year in jail and four years on probation. The victim’s family and surrounding community, however, are not pleased with how the justice system handled this case.
“Baker County is one of those counties where you know it is a ‘good ole boy’ system back up in there,” Jacksonville’s Rev. R.L. Gundy said at a town hall meeting about the case. “In Baker County, it’s gonna be deeper because you got an entrenched law enforcement component down there in Baker County that is going to cover [for] one another.”
“Not happy with everything they’ve done,” Broadus Sr. said in a statement. “Not happy with the laws of the state of Florida. Like I said, the evidence is there… clearly shows this was murder, and probably even call it premeditated.”
“The intent was to silence him, first physically and then, by any means necessary,” said Del Swain, the victim’s mother. “And destroy the evidence that would let the world know exactly what it transpired. The attempt to cover the secret that DJ and his cell phone held did not work.”