Jacksonville jury convicts man of lesser murder charge, defendant avoids mandatory life sentence

March 8, 2013

A jury last week opted against a first-degree murder conviction in a case where a Jacksonville man was accused of strangling his girlfriend and jurors instead chose to find him guilty of second-degree murder. While it may seem like a minor technicality, it could have a significant impact on the sentence Kevin Jones ultimately receives in the case. In Florida, a first-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life sentence. No ifs, ands or buts - the person will spend the rest of his or her life behind bars. On a second degree-murder charge, however, there is more discretion in the hands of the judge. Life in prison is still an option, and in this case a definite possibility, but it is not set in stone.

Jones was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend during an argument, then strangling her when she was driving to the hospital, forcing her to crash into a light pole, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. During the two-day trial, Jones' Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys never denied that Jones was responsible for his girlfriend's death. They did argue that he did not intend to kill her and he should be found guilty of manslaughter. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Jones and his girlfriend did have a volatile relationship and he previously pleaded guilty to breaking into her apartment, but claimed he was living there at the time, the newspaper reported. One of the conditions of the plea agreement was that Jones not have contact with his girlfriend, but they continued to have a consensual relationship, the newspaper reported. Even though his girlfriend allowed the contact, it still would have been a violation of his Duval County Probation.

One of the elements of a first-degree murder case is that the suspect must have intent to kill the victim. The jury obviously did not find that state had proven that element beyond a reasonable doubt in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. Second-degree murder applies in a case where the defendant's actions lead to the death of the victim, but there is not a specific attempt to kill the victim. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case, the jury compromised between what the state asked for and what the Jacksonville defense sought, finding Jones guilty of second-degree murder. He is expected to be sentenced in coming weeks. That's when we'll see if the second-degree murder conviction made a difference in terms of the sentencing for Jones.

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 Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.