A St. Johns County jury found a man guilty last month – but not of the first-degree charge the state indicted him on. Instead, the man was found guilty of second-degree murder and kidnapping, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said the man and his roommate beat another man to death and tried to burn the body and a car on a deserted road, the newspaper reported. The roommate pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier and agreed to testify against the man who went to trial in the case, the newspaper reported.
The difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder can be enormous when it comes to sentencing and this St. Johns County Violent Crimes Case is no different. If a person is convicted of first-degree murder in Florida, there are only two sentencing options: life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. If the charge is second-degree murder, the judge has far more latitude in terms of issuing a sentence. Life in prison is still an option, and many people are sentenced to life in prison on second-degree murder charges, but there is at least a chance now that this 27-year-old defendant will be released.
For a person to be found guilty of first-degree murder, the state must be able to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a premeditated intent to kill another person. In this St. Johns County Murder Case, the jury apparently had an issue with determining premeditation. Second-degree murder, however is defined by statute as: “The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual.” During a St. Johns County Criminal Trial, jurors are informed of the charges against the defendant, but also in most cases given a list of other charges that they could apply. These are called “lesser included charges,” and this St. Johns County Murder Case is an example of a jury choosing that option.