Skip to Content

Sovereign Citizen Convicted of Murder, Receives Life Sentence

At the conclusion of her closing statement on Friday afternoon, the defendant in her murder trial urged the jurors to take all the time they needed to deliberate. Expressing her hope for the opportunity to present her perspective, she emphasized the abundance of information she wished to share with them. She reassured the jurors that she would be present when they reached a decision.

The time was 2:54 p.m. when Circuit Judge Lisa Herndon completed reading the final sections of the jury instructions. Subsequently, at 3:02 p.m., the seven men and five women comprising the jury retired to commence their deliberation. By 3:34 p.m., they had reached a verdict and promptly informed the bailiffs.

Inside the courtroom, supporters of the defendant, Blanchard, and the victim, Christopher Hallett, were seated on opposite sides, anxiously awaiting the outcome. The clerk announced the verdict: guilty of first-degree murder with a firearm in connection to the November 2020 shooting death of Hallett.

Witnessing the verdict, Blanchard wept, mirroring the emotional response from Hallett’s advocates. Representing herself in court, Blanchard requested the jury to be polled, to which all 12 members affirmed her guilt.

Following the jury’s dismissal, the judge reconvened for an impact panel.

Responses to the Verdict

Expressing gratitude, Hallett’s ex-wife thanked the judge for her patience and understanding throughout the trial, as well as for facilitating the judicial process. She extended a warm thank you to Assistant State Attorneys Amy Berndt and Toby Hunt for their dedication.

After the guilty verdict was delivered, Blanchard was fingerprinted by a bailiff. Hallett’s significant other addressed Blanchard, highlighting the profound loss resulting from Hallett’s tragic death. She emphasized the irrevocable impact of Blanchard’s actions, categorizing them as the ultimate betrayal with no justification. Furthermore, she asserted that Blanchard’s mental state did not absolve her of responsibility.

Blanchard’s sister and mother opted not to provide any comments on the verdict.

Blanchard, who identified as a sovereign citizen, was officially convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

State Attorney Bill Gladson commended the jurors for their conscientious service during the trial, acknowledging their essential role in upholding justice. He also expressed appreciation for the relentless efforts of the prosecutors in seeking justice for the victim and the community of Florida.

Neely Raye Pesognellie Petrie Blanchard attentively listened during her murder trial on Friday.

Subsequently handcuffed and fingerprinted, Blanchard was escorted by bailiffs to the rear of the courtroom and then transferred to the county jail. The timeline for her transfer to a state prison facility remains undisclosed.

The Shooting Incident

Following the fatal shooting, Blanchard departed for Georgia after meeting her husband on Interstate 75. Meanwhile, law enforcement officers responded to the scene of the shooting, where they found two individuals—a woman and a teenage girl, now 20—unharmed. These witnesses, present at the Marion Oaks residence during the shooting, provided crucial testimony during the trial. Notably, the younger woman recounted witnessing Blanchard fatally shooting Hallett.

Through a diligent investigation, authorities were able to track Blanchard’s whereabouts to Georgia, leading to her apprehension by local law enforcement. Subsequently, Blanchard was extradited back to Marion County and has remained in custody since 2020.

Authorities linked the shooting to Hallett’s efforts to regain custody of Blanchard’s children, who had been removed by state officials. Hallett had established E-Clause, an organization dedicated to reuniting parents with children separated by state intervention, stemming from his personal experience with his own children’s removal by state authorities.

During the trial, it was revealed that Blanchard had collaborated with Hallett from 2017 to 2020. Allegedly dissatisfied with Hallett’s assistance, Blanchard stayed at his residence the night before the fatal incident.

The trial attracted significant public interest, with 22 individuals providing testimony and 35 evidence exhibits introduced. Commencing with jury selection earlier in the week, the trial encompassed a comprehensive legal process.

In her closing argument, Prosecutor Berndt portrayed Blanchard as a determined individual who resorted to drastic measures to achieve her objectives. Berndt highlighted Blanchard’s escalating actions following the removal of her children from her custody, culminating in the fatal shooting of Hallett. The prosecutor underscored Blanchard’s calculated approach, citing various pieces of evidence to support the premeditated nature of the crime.

Moreover, Berndt emphasized Blanchard’s admission to the shooting and the deliberate steps she took before and during the incident. The prosecution contended that Blanchard’s actions were driven by a desire to exact revenge on Hallett.

Regarding Blanchard’s defense of temporary insanity, Berndt refuted this claim, asserting that Blanchard exhibited a clear understanding of her actions and their consequences. The prosecution presented evidence contradicting Blanchard’s alleged mental state, including recorded conversations that revealed her rational behavior following the shooting.

In her closing argument, Blanchard portrayed herself as a multifaceted individual— a mother, sister, and daughter—challenging the prosecution’s case against her. She invoked her sovereign beliefs and criticized the perceived injustices within the legal system, urging the jurors to consider her perspective.

However, Blanchard’s closing argument veered off course multiple times, prompting interventions from the judge and the prosecutor to refocus on the case at hand. Despite these interventions, Blanchard continued to digress, delving into unrelated topics such as political figures and conspiracy theories.

In a last-minute attempt to secure legal representation, Blanchard filed a motion to delay the proceedings, which was promptly denied by the judge. The judge reiterated that Blanchard had consciously chosen to represent herself, and it was too late in the trial process to introduce a new attorney.

Following the conclusion of the defendant’s case, the state presented a rebuttal witness, Dr. Jason Demery, who provided expert testimony regarding Blanchard’s mental state. Dr. Demery’s evaluation concluded that Blanchard did not exhibit signs of a mental disease or defect that would render her legally insane at the time of the shooting.

Trial Commencement:

During cross-examination by Blanchard, Dr. Demery’s responses highlighted Blanchard’s cognitive abilities and the absence of a diagnosable mental condition. Despite attempts to steer the questioning off-topic, Dr. Demery’s assessment remained focused on Blanchard’s mental state and culpability in the crime.

For further inquiries, please contact Austin L. Miller at [email protected]