Jury can't agree in murder trial of Jacksonville Beach man accused of shooting his wife; new trial expected

October 11, 2013

A Jacksonville judge was forced to declare a mistrial last month in the case of a Jacksonville Beach man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. Michael Morris is charged with shooting his wife seven times in the foyer of their home during an argument when both had been drinking, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Morris' neighbor, an off-duty police officer, took Morris into custody and would not let the man back in his home after Morris said he wanted to use one of his 40 guns to kill himself, the newspaper reported.

The issue in this Jacksonville Murder Case isn't really the crime itself, but rather the charge. The state charged Morris with first-degree murder, meaning the crime was premeditated. Now that doesn't mean Morris needed to have plotted the shooting weeks or months in advance, but that in that moment when he pulled out his gun and shot several times he intended to kill her. With first-degree murder charges, there are only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. Because the state was not seeking the death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case, a conviction would have resulted in an automatic life sentence for Morris. But Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys argued that Morris should have only been charged with manslaughter. Manslaughter is also a first-degree felony, but the maximum penalty is 30 years in prison. That would still essentially be a life sentence for Morris, 67, but the judge has discretion he or she doesn't not have in a first-degree murder case. Manslaughter is basically a charge for when someone dies as a result of negligence or as part of another criminal act where there was no intent to kill. For example, manslaughter is commonly charged if two people get into a fight and the one is killed, perhaps from hitting his or her head on the concrete.

It's impossible to know just how deadlocked the jury was in this Jacksonville Murder Case. For someone to be convicted of any crime in the state of Florida, the jury must be unanimous in its decision. So even just one person who disagrees - and stands his or her ground - can force a mistrial. In some Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases, a mistrial opens the door to further negotiations and perhaps a plea agreement. In many Jacksonville Murder Cases, though, it adds to the defendant's resolve, thinking the jury was close to finding the person not guilty. Our Jacksonville Trial Attorney knows every trial carries a significant risk. And although the charge is obviously very serious, that actually doesn't hold as true in Jacksonville Murder Cases. If the only possibility is life in prison whether the person pleads guilty or goes to trial, why not take the case to trial? The risk factor in other cases varies tremendously and, having represented thousands of defendants on charges ranging from misdemeanors to life felonies, our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can lay out the options for you or your loved one to make the best decision going forward.

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