WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Jurors found former Florida State University football player Travis Rudolph not guilty of murder Wednesday, concluding a two-week trial in which Rudolph insisted he killed a man and almost killed three others to save his own life. The jury reached its decision after fewer than four hours of deliberation.
Rudolph, who played briefly in the NFL, faced one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder for the fatal shooting outside his Lake Park home two years ago. The 12-person jury had the option to convict him of lesser offenses, including second-degree murder and manslaughter, but rejected those as well.
Rudolph left the courthouse smiling Wednesday, stopping to pose for a selfie with a supporter. A passing driver honked and screamed his name from an open car window.
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The charges against Rudolph stemmed from an incident on April 7, 2021, in which four men appeared on his doorstep shortly after midnight to confront him about a dispute he had with his girlfriend hours earlier. The confrontation turned violent, Rudolph said, and he armed himself with a semi-automatic rifle.
Prosecutors said the men were trying to flee in a black Cadillac when Rudolph fired 39 rounds in their direction, killing Sebastien Jean-Jacques in the passenger seat and wounding his friend Tyler Robinson in the back of the car.
Rudolph asked Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen to dismiss the case last year on the basis of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which permits the use of deadly force to protect against death or great bodily harm. Gillen denied his request, leaving jurors to decide whether Rudolph ended Jean-Jacques’ life to save his own.
Jurors had the option of convicting Rudolph of lesser offenses including second-degree murder and manslaughter but acquitted him of all charges.
Jurors returned a verdict of “not guilty” on all counts at about 2:15 p.m.
At noon, the jury foreman wrote a note to Gillen asking to re-watch footage from the Ring doorbell camera that captured Rudolph’s argument with his then-girlfriend, Dominique Jones.
Attorneys queued up the video, as well as several others the jury requested to revisit, including the video of Jones’ brother and his three friends arriving at the home hours later, and body-camera footage from deputies who responded to their frantic 911 call.