Crime, Dan Markel, Deaths, Guns / Firearms, Law Professors, Law Schools, Murder, Violence

A Prominent Law Professor Is Shot At Home And Killed

Dan Markel

Professor Dan Markel of Florida State University College of Law, a well-known legal academic and law blogger, was shot in his home on Friday. He died of his wounds on Saturday. He was 41. We noted the news in Morning Docket and followed the news over the weekend on our Twitter feed.

I was friends with Markel, whom I knew since we worked together on the college newspaper, and in a subsequent story I will review his life and career and share some personal reflections. He was a great scholar and a wonderful person, as reflected in the outpouring of grief within legal academia, the legal blogosphere, and beyond.

In this post, I will summarize and analyze what we know (and don’t know) about Dan Markel’s terrible and tragic death….

(Please note the multiple UPDATES added to the end of this post.)

On Friday, July 18, at approximately 11 a.m., police received a report from a resident of a “loud bang” in the 2100 block of Trescott Drive, in the upscale Betton Hills neighborhood of Tallahassee. Upon arriving at Dan Markel’s home at 2116 Trescott Drive, they found Markel with a gunshot wound.

Markel was rushed to Tallahassee Community Hospital, where he died of his injuries early on Saturday morning. A memorial service took place yesterday at his temple, Congregation Shomrei Torah. Markel’s body is expected to be sent back to Toronto, where Markel is originally from and where his parents still live, for a funeral. FSU will hold a memorial service for Markel in the fall, when more students and faculty are back in Tallahassee.

The Tallahassee Police Department is, according to a spokesperson, investigating Markel’s death “as a homicide at this point; this is not considered a break-in.” From the department’s statement:

The initial investigation has provided no indication that this case is connected to a burglary or robbery and investigators are assuring residents there is no evidence this was a random act. Neighbourhood residents should continue to be vigilant but it appears at this time that Mr. Markel was the intended victim in this incident.

No suspects have been identified. Anyone with information about the killing should contact the TPD at 850-891-4462. The department is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

So those are the facts as we know them. Now, a little backstory.

News of Markel’s death broke on Saturday morning. Over the course of the weekend, the story evolved. You can get a sense of how the story developed from this post by Brian Leiter, including the updates. The killing initially got described as resulting from a robbery gone bad (with some observers noting a series of burglaries in the Betton Hills neighborhood). At some point, the possibility of the wounds being self-inflicted emerged (in part due to heavy use of the passive voice in early accounts of the shooting). The shooting then got characterized as a homicide but not a robbery, which is where it remains today.

Here are some possibilities regarding the murder of Dan Markel:

1. He was killed by a stranger in a burglary or robbery.

2. He was killed by a disgruntled student, an angry colleague, or someone else connected to his professional life as a legal academic.

3. His killing had some connection to his acrimonious divorce and ongoing litigation with his ex-wife, Wendi Jill Adelson.

In February 2006, Dan Markel and Wendi Adelson got married (here is their New York Times wedding announcement). At the time of their marriage, Wendi Adelson, then 26, was a third-year law student at the University of Miami, and Markel, then 33, was already a professor at FSU Law. Adelson later followed her husband into legal academia; she is currently a clinical professor in FSU’s public interest law center. Markel and Adelson had two sons, Lincoln and Benjamin.

At some point, Dan Markel and Wendi Adelson’s marriage unraveled. In 2012, Adelson filed for divorce. Although the divorce was finalized in 2013, you can see from the docket that legal fights over child custody and finances continued into this year. I do know, from a conversation I had with Markel last year and from mutual friends, that his split from Adelson was highly contentious.

So this is a summary of what we know at the current time about the terrible death of Dan Markel. You can read more via the many links collected below to news articles and blog posts.

If you have memories about Markel that you would like to share for the more personal post I am writing, please feel free to submit them by email or by text message (646-820-8477), for possible use in the story (anonymous quotation unless you specify otherwise — e.g., completely off the record or on the record/for attribution). And if you have any information that could help solve Markel’s killing, please contact the Tallahassee Police Department at 850-891-4462. Thank you.

UPDATE (5:05 p.m.): Here is my follow-up post, offering some personal recollections about Dan Markel.

UPDATE (5:25 p.m.): The three possibilities listed above as “some possibilities” are by no means the only possibilities. Presumably the police are considering the entire spectrum of suspects, including neighbors, relatives, friends, a new love interest (or someone connected with a new love interest), an old love interest (or someone connected with an old love interest), etc. We will of course keep you posted as the investigation unfolds.

UPDATE (7/22/2014, 1:45 p.m.): A New York Times piece by John Schwartz about Dan Markel’s death contains comment from Wendi Adelson through her lawyer, Jimmy Judkins: “She’s just devastated, and scared to death.” We extend our condolences and sympathies to her and to all of Dan Markel’s family and friends at this time.

UPDATE (7/22/2014, 4:25 p.m.): Here are additional memories of Dan Markel from around the country, as well as information about making donations in his honor.

Update: TPD Chief DeLeo calls Markel shooting a ‘murder’ [Tallahassee Democrat via How Appealing]
Toronto-born law professor Dan Markel gunned down at his Florida home [Toronto Star]
Canadian professor was killed in targeted attack, Florida police say [Toronto Globe and Mail]
TPD Opens Tip Line Dedicated to Markel Homicide Investigation [WCTV]
FSU law professor dies in shooting [Tallahassee Democrat]
Memorial held for FSU law professor shot and killed in Tallahassee [WTXL]
Passing of Dan Markel [Congregation Shomrei Torah]
Shooting death of law prof who founded PrawfsBlawg is investigated as homicide [ABA Journal]
We Have Lost Our Beloved Friend, Dan Markel [PrawfsBlawg]
Death of Dan Markel (1972-2014) [TaxProf Blog]
In Memoriam: Dan Markel (1972-2014) [Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports]
Wendi Adelson and Dan Markel [New York Times]