The Duval County state attorney had a man charged with second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery for allegedly killing one and injuring two in a 2007 fight. But a Jacksonville jury this month found Joshula T. Oliver guilty of a reduced charge of manslaughter and not guilty of the two Jacksonville battery charges, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The case was nearly five years old before it made it to a trial - a long time even for a legal system that can get bogged down.
The verdicts have to be considered a win for Oliver, even though he is looking at up to 15 years in prison. Had he been convicted of murder, Oliver faced up to life in prison and up to 30 years a piece on the two aggravated battery charges. From the perspective of a Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Attorney, it will be interesting to see how much time Oliver gets next month. In some cases when a jury reduces the Duval criminal charges, a judge will give the defendant the maximum penalty and it has the appearance of the judge disagreeing with the verdict and hammering the defendant anyway. That may or may not be the case in those sentences, because the judge could have been leaning toward the maximum regardless of which count the person was convicted of, but it can have that appearance. Either way for Oliver, he has been in jail for five years awaiting trial and will receive credit for that time, so if he does get 15 years he'll have about 10 to go.
When juries are given their instructions by the judge, they are also told about other charges they can consider if they don't think the standards are met for what the state has charged. These are called "lesser included offenses." In Oliver's case, manslaughter was a lesser included offense as an alternative to murder. Police said Oliver stabbed a man during a fight at a Southside bar and two other men were seriously injured when they were stabbed while trying to help the first victim. Oliver drove away from the bar, but later turned himself in, the newspaper reported. Though it's difficult to presume what a jury means by a verdict, it appears here the jury thought the stabbing was part of a fight that escalated, Oliver wasn't intending to kill anyone and the state couldn't prove Oliver was the one who stabbed the other two men.
Juries play a critical role in our criminal justice system and have a tremendous amount of power in changing the charges or even finding people not guilty of the crimes they were charged with. But the ultimate say in terms or sentencing lies with the judge. We'll see next month how much time Oliver gets.
If you or a loved one needs a Criminal Defense Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Battery Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.