Conviction and five-year prison sentence thrown out for man accused of beating store owner

May 1, 2013

A Jacksonville man who's already served half of a five-year prison sentence after being convicted in the 2010 beating of a convenience store owner will now get a new trial in the case. Gerald Cribbs was convicted in a 2011 trial and sentenced to five years in prison on the Duval County felony assault charge, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Gribbs had been kicked out of a Westside Jacksonville convenience store three times for harassing female customers and, when the owner went out to the parking lot again to see if Cribbs had left, the owner was hit in the back of the head, the newspaper reported. The owner said during trial he heard Cribbs' voice threatening to kill him and the owner told police the night of the attack that Cribbs was the one who hit him in this Jacksonville Assault case.

But when an investigator for Cribbs' defense team testified in this Jacksonville Assault Case, he said he spoke with the owner just two months before the trial and the owner said he didn't know who hit him, the newspaper reported. Prosecutors then tore into the investigator, questioning his tactics and asking why he didn't talk to other witnesses. Jacksonville Defense Attorneys objected, but the judge allowed the questioning anyway, the newspaper reported. The 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee last week sided with Cribbs, saying the questioning of the defense investigator shifted the case to where Cribbs was having to prove his innocence, rather than the state proving he was guilty. It is not the responsibility of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to prove his or her client is innocent. In all criminal defense cases in Florida, including Jacksonville Assault Cases, the burden of proof is on the state. Period. Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, or the jury is supposed to find the person not guilty.

In criminal cases in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, it is imperative that the playing field be level so the accused in ensured his or her right to a fair trial. That's why the potential sentence a defendant is facing is not made public during the trial - that information could sway the jury one way or the other. Another example is a jury decision must be unanimous. A person's freedom is a fundamental right and should not be taken away on a whim. It will be interesting to see if the state will continue to pursue the case against Cribbs, or if negotiations will ramp up. Cribbs has been returned from state prison to the Duval County Jail while the case resolves. Criminal cases can come down to small details that may seem like minutia at the time, but are of great importance to an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney.

If you or a loved one needs a Jacksonville Assault Attorney in Duval County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Assault Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.