Articles Posted in Violent Crimes in Jacksonville

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next year that could drastically change how the death penalty is handed down in Florida.  The case could also result in more than 60 people from Northeast Florida on Death Row having their sentence reevaluated, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The decision will focus on whether or not a jury recommendation for the death penalty must be unanimous. Florida is one of only three states with the death penalty that does not require the jury to unanimously recommend death, the newspaper reported.  In Florida, the recommendation only needs to be a majority of the 12 jurors and then the judge makes the final decision. Rarely, though, does a judge ever decide to go against the recommendation of the jury.  The case was brought by a man in the Panhandle who is on Death Row after the jury recommended the death penalty by a 7-5 vote. Of the 75 people on Death Row from Northeast Florida, the newspaper reported, 62 were put there by a decision in a Jacksonville Murder Case that was not unanimous. The argument for keeping the majority vote is that the jury has to unanimously agree the person is guilty to even get to the penalty phase. So, for example, there cannot be an 11-1 vote to find someone guilty of murder – or of any other charge, from trespassing to drug trafficking to armed robbery. The jury’s decision must be unanimous.  If a jury cannot come to an agreement on a verdict, that is what’s known as a “hung jury,” and the judge must declare a mistrial. From there, the prosecution can decide whether it wants to take the case to trial again, or go back to the negotiating table with the defense to see if a plea deal can be arranged. The same is true if the jury is leaning toward a not guilty verdict. Just because it might be 10-2 in favor of not guilty during plea deliberations does not mean the person will be found not guilty. The jury must come to unanimous agreement in either direction.  The argument to make the death penalty decision unanimous is that the decision for the state to take someone’s life is so critical that if there’s any doubt at all in the minds of the jury – the appropriate sentence is life in prison. The pending Supreme Court decision is an important one and could have a large impact on people sentenced to death in Jacksonville Murder Cases.  Criminal law is filled with technicalities and various procedures that can dramatically affect the outcome in a Jacksonville Felony Case. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows the ins and outs of the law and will fully investigate your case so you or your loved one can make an informed 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.

Jacksonville police have opened an investigation into a Jacksonville man accused of throwing a cup of liquid at another car during an apparent argument.  This is probably something that happens daily on roads across Jacksonville, but there’s one reason this one has bubbled up to earn media attention: It was caught on video. A woman who said she honked at the driver she said sped through a school zone pulled out her phone to capture what she said was aggressive behavior, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. No charges have been filed, but police said they are investigating a police criminal mischief charge.

Criminal mischief is essentially vandalism, and the crime would be throwing the drink at the woman’s vehicle. Since the value of the damage is likely less than $200, the charge would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in county jail. If the value is between $201 and $1,000, the charge would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. If the value was more than $1,000, criminal mischief is then elevated to a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. This is highly unlikely in this Jacksonville Road Rage Case because prosecutors told the newspaper the case was being investigated as a misdemeanor.

None of the actual root causes of the argument are part of the charges, including running a red light and speeding in a school zone. In these Jacksonville Traffic Cases, the alleged acts would have to be observed by a police officer for any charges to be filed. The only exception in traffic cases are red light cameras cases, though those are also subject to their own legal questioning. The woman also accused the van driver of threatening her, but that part of the incident was not caught on video. The only potentially criminal piece that was filmed was the throwing of the drink.  Even that piece of this Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case could be pretty thin if it was brought before a jury of the driver’s peers. The case will eventually become a case of “he said, she said.” If the woman thought far enough in advance to film the man from her cell phone while driving, did she do anything before the filming that might have instigated or escalated the incident? And by following the man to his home, did she continue the incident and then herself become the aggressor?  The video makes for good footage for the evening news, but isn’t as solid when it comes to proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all types of crimes, including traffic cases, misdemeanors and felonies.

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 Criminal Mischief Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A man who was a teenager at the time he was arrested on murder and other charges, pleaded guilty this month and avoided a potential life sentence.  The man, now 21, pleaded guilty in connection with the shooting death of an 18-year-old man in 2013, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by an adjudicated juvenile delinquent, the newspaper reported. Both the murder charge and the armed robbery charge have a maximum sentence of life in prison. He was sentenced instead to 35 years in prison in this Jacksonville Murder Case. The murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 years on state prison.

There were two people facing similar charges in this Jacksonville Murder Case and the second has not pleaded guilty. He is still awaiting trial, the newspaper reported. Cases like this always lead to speculation that the person pleading first will be testifying against the second defendant. The man’s Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney told the newspaper the plea does not require him to testify in the case against the co-defendant. One key element in this Jacksonville Murder Case is that the man has already been sentenced. Typically, when the deal is contingent on cooperation, the state will ask the judge to postpone sentencing until after the trial in which the person is supposed to testify. This is done so the state still has some sort of leverage over the defendant. If the sentence that reflects cooperation has already been given, there is no incentive for the person to actually testify against the other person in his or her Jacksonville Murder Trial.

If the person isn’t testifying, or the state does not believe the testimony to be crucial to proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it doesn’t matter when the person is sentenced. From the media reports in this Jacksonville Murder Case, it is not clear which of the two men was the shooter. The man who was sentenced was arrested after police received a tip that he was bragging about being involved in the first murder of 2013, the newspaper reported. He was charged with murder after lab results showed a gun found on him matched the one used in the murder.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people charged with all types of crimes – from misdemeanor charges and traffic tickets on up to capital felonies such as murder and armed robbery. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges against you or your loved one and provide you with information so you can make the best decision on how to proceed in the case.

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.

The state Supreme Court this month tossed out a 70-year sentence given to a Jacksonville boy who was 14 at the time he committed an armed robbery.  The defendant, now 20, will have to be resentenced, as will likely hundreds of defendants across the state who received similar lengthy sentences, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was arrested in 2009 for shooting a gas station owner, the newspaper reported. The boy pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery. Both are first-degree felonies with possible sentences up to life in prison. The boy in this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

The Supreme Court ruled that the 70-year sentence for a teen was essentially a life sentence, and that went against the intent of a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling. That decision banned life sentences for juveniles charged with any crime other than murder. When juveniles are sentenced to life in prison, a review must occur after 25 years. If a juvenile is not given a life sentence on a crime that would warrant one, such as murder, the minimum sentence is 35 years.  But for cases other than murder, the courts have not had clear direction on how teens should be resentenced and perhaps this Florida Supreme Court decision will provide more clarity. These decisions apply to teens who are charged with crimes as an adult – not simply teens who have relatively minor charges that stay within the juvenile court system. In many instances in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, prosecutors will bypass the juvenile court system and immediately throw the case into adult court.

What the Florida Supreme Court is at least partially saying in this ruling is: juveniles who commit crimes cannot be treated exactly like adults. That’s why there is a separate detention and punishment system for teens – with five levels of detention, from house arrest on up to what’s essentially a prison for teens. That’s why there is a separate type of sentencing for Youthful Offenders, which can cap the time at six years for someone who commits a crime before the age of 21. Those years can be split among probation and prison with, for example, four years in prison and two years of probation – or any combination thereof.  Juveniles can commit serious felonies and, without question, should face punishment and be held responsible for their actions. But the state also must balance the mental capacity of a 14-year-old when issuing a sentence that will keep him in prison into his 80s.

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 Juvenile Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Two juries in the same courtroom came to different conclusions in the cases of two men charged with first-degree murder in what police described as a drug-related killing.  One man was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for his role in the death of two Jacksonville brothers who were shot and killed in their car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The second defendant is facing a new trial after a jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether he was guilty or not guilty. His Jacksonville Murder Case could be reopened for negotiations or scheduled for a new trial.

The trial logistics of this Jacksonville Murder Case are different than most. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, four people were allegedly going to buy drugs from the two brothers and the two brothers were both shot in the face and killed. One defendant already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in this 2013 incident and is awaiting sentencing. The alleged shooter is charged with first-degree murder and the state is planning to seek the death penalty against him. That left the two men who recently went to trial. The facts of the case were similar enough that the state could present the cases against both at the same time. But, separate juries were assembled for each of the defendants in this Jacksonville Murder Case. So when it came time to deliberate and discuss the charges, one jury went into one room and the other went into a separate room.

This practice is done so every defendant has a fair trial and is judged on his or her own actions as offered as evidence by the state. If a jury was considering both cases at the same time, the actions of one defendant could influence their opinion of the other. A person’s right to a fair trial in front of a jury of his or her peers is essential – especially in a first-degree murder case. There are only two possible sentences when someone is convicted of first-degree murder: life in prison or the death penalty. The 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder could face a sentence that would allow him to be released from prison at some point, but he likely agreed to cooperate in the case. The 21-year-old defendant now facing a new trial could have a similar option, depending on what he and the state choose to do with the case. If the case does go to trial a second time, the jury will not be told it’s been to trial before – just like previous criminal charges aren’t allowed in as evidence in the case.

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.

A Jacksonville man on trial for murder took a plea deal while the jury was deliberating his plight, in exchange for prosecutors agreeing not to seek the death penalty against him.  Instead, the man will be sentenced to life in prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He was accused of killing his former girlfriend and setting her body on fire, the newspaper reported. The bulk of the trial had been finished and the jury had been out 11 hours before the man agreed to the plea deal, the newspaper reported.  In first-degree murder cases, there are only two possible punishments: life in prison or the death penalty. The death penalty is designed to be used sparingly and only in the worst of the worst cases. But oftentimes in Jacksonville Murder Cases, however, the death penalty is used as a bargaining chip to encourage people to agree to a plea deal. That appears to be what happened here in this Jacksonville Murder Case.

On life sentences, there is no possibility of parole – which has since been banned in Florida. But people convicted decades ago still have some parole eligibility. In fact, the man on trial in this case was previously convicted of second-degree murder for a 1991 shooting, the newspaper reported. He was paroled and released from prison in 2010 and started dating the woman he just pleaded guilty to killing, the newspaper reported.  But, during the trial, the man’s Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys were successful in keeping the previous murder conviction out of the trial. The attorneys argued it would prejudice the jurors and they would use the previous conviction against him. And they’re right. Everyone charged with a crime has the fundamental right to a fair trial. And only the facts of the current case can be used in that trial. For example, if a driver is on trial for a DUI, jurors would not know if it is the driver’s first time being arrested or his or her third. The same holds true in this Jacksonville Murder Case.

If you were a juror, would you be more likely to convict someone of murder if they’ve already been convicted of murder? Probably so. A person’s history and propensity to commit murder would likely play into anyone’s decision. But it’s the state’s responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed the crime they are accused of. For example, just because a person has been convicted in the Jacksonville Theft Case of stealing a car doesn’t mean he or she is automatically guilty if charged a second time with stealing a car. There are strict rules on what can be admitted as evidence in a trial and this is precisely why.

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.

A man sentenced to 45 years in prison on an attempted murder charge had his sentence thrown out this month. The court found the state did not present enough evidence to convict the defendant of first-degree attempted murder, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The key element of attempted first-degree murder is that the defendant planned and intended to kill the victim, the same premeditation standard that must be proven in a first-degree murder case in which a person is killed.

In terms of a sentencing, the charge is likely not going to change much for the defendant. On the surface, it seems important. He is now serving a 45-year sentence in state prison. Attempted second-degree murder is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, unless a firearm is used, as it was in this Clay County Violent Crimes Case. Then, the charge becomes a first-degree felony and the maximum sentence stretches to 30 years in state prison, with a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. But, the fact that a person was shot in the act of this crime makes it a life felony – so the sentence could legally be exactly the same in this Clay County Gun Crimes Case.

In this Clay County Violent Crimes Case, two men were arguing in a parking lot outside a nightclub, the newspaper reported. The defendant is accused of pulling out a gun a shooting four times, hitting the other man once in the stomach, the newspaper reported. But those facts alone are not enough for attempted second-degree murder, the court ruled. There was no evidence presented about the shooter’s state of mind at the time of the crime (he likely did not testify at trial), and the court called the state’s only showed “circumstantial” evidence of premeditation, the newspaper reported. In this case, the conviction was not reversed by the appellate court, it was simply sent back to the lower court for a new sentencing hearing on the reduced charge. In many cases, the entire trial is thrown out and the two sides must start from scratch, but this appeal only applies to the sentence. Appellate courts are a significant part of our judicial system and help ensure the state does not overcharge defendants and meets all of the legal requirements in proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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 Clay County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A man who punched another man and ended up killing him was charged with manslaughter, several months after the incident. The defendant left a gun hidden in a book at the other man’s house and, when the resident found the gun, he turned it over to police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was upset and argued with the man about getting rid of the gun, the newspaper reported. The defendant left but then came back and punched the man, who fell back and hit his head on the ground. The man was taken to the hospital and died the next day, the newspaper reported.

The defendant is now charged with manslaughter in the August killing. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Manslaughter is legally defined in the state of Florida as “the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, with lawful justification.” Manslaughter is charged in Jacksonville Violent Crime Cases where the outcome ends up being far more severe than the intent. In this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case, the defendant was angry and threw a punch at the victim. Once he hit him, he left, according to the newspaper report. There was clearly not intent to kill the person in this case. Even if there is not a weapon involved, the state can still charge a person with murder – depending on the intent. For example, if the defendant in this case would have repeated punched the man while he was unconcscious and did not get up or stop until the man was dead, then a murder charge could apply. Manslaughter can also become a first-degree felony with a 30-year maximum sentence if the victim is a child, an elderly adult or disabled.

The man who was killed in this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case was 45 years old and there is nothing in the newspaper report to suggest he was disabled. Manslaughter is a charge that has infinitely more to do with the outcome in a case than it does the intent of the act. Had the man not fallen backward, the defendant would have likely been charged with a battery charge – a first-degree misdemeanor punishable only by time in the county jail – or at worst a felony battery with a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all levels of violent crimes – including cases like this whether the results are far worse than intended. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of the case and lay out all of the consequences and potential outcomes so you or your loved one can 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 Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A man accused of shooting and killing his parents will not face the death penalty on the two murder charges. The state and the man’s attorneys reached a deal this month where he will plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, receive to life sentences for both crimes and the state will withdraw its initial intent to seek the death penalty, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, both sides avoid a lengthy, expensive trial and the sentence is locked in.

Because he was charged with first-degree murder, there were only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. One interesting piece of this plea deal is the state did not come down at all on the charge. In many recent Jacksonville Murder Cases, the state would charge first-degree murder, file a notice to seek the death penalty, then agree to let the defendant plead guilty to second-degree murder. Because second-degree murder does not carry a mandatory life sentence, those pleas left the door open for some chance of a sentence that would allow the defendant to eventually be released. That was not done in this Jacksonville Murder Case, likely because the defendant pleaded guilty to killing two people and, according to the newspaper report, has a criminal record with other aggressive crimes that include an assault he did jail time for. It also would not help in the eyes of the jury that the defendant is accused of killing his parents after he was kicked out of the home for repeated drug use, according to the newspaper report.

The overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved in a plea before they go to trial. Part of the reason many Jacksonville Murder Cases go to trial is the state is not seeking the death penalty, but will not come off the first-degree murder charge. So the defendant could plead guilty and get a life sentence or take the case to trial and the worst thing that can happen is a life sentence. There’s no reason not to go to trial. In most Jacksonville Felony Cases, sentences are more severe following a trial than they are as a result of a plea agreement, so there is an inherent cost to taking a case to trial. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, there was the possibility of the death penalty, which ended up being enough for the man to agree to spend the rest of his life in prison. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has worked on thousands of cases through the years, thoroughly investigates the charges and consults with the client before working on a resolution with the state. Any decisions on taking the case to trial or working out a deal with a better sentence are up to the client, with our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney laying out the options so you or your loved one can make an informed decision.

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.

Police arrested a woman for driving her car into a blood donation center, a crash that shut the business down and sent nine people to local hospitals with injuries. None of the injuries were life-threatening, and the driver was among those taken for treatment, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman is accused of pulling up toward the entrance, pausing, and then driving through the entrance and another 40 feet into the crowded business, the newspaper reported. The car knocked over counters and other structures in the building and part of the roof collapsed, the newspaper reported.

The driver was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief causing more than $1,000 worth of damages to a business. The aggravated battery charge is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison, while the criminal mischief charge is a third-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Aggravated battery with a weapon is more commonly charged when someone uses a firearm or a baseball bat, something that is more targeted or used directly at one person. But a vehicle can be used as a weapon and this charge would qualify – assuming the act was intentional. Witness speculated that the woman had argued with the staff about being told she could not donate plasma for money, but all of those details would need to surface through the investigative and discovery process as the case moved forward.

One element of this Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Case that could change is the number of charges the driver is facing. Right now, she is facing one count of aggravated battery. In many Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases, the state will charge people with one count for each of the people who are injured in the incident. In this Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Case, that could mean eight charges, bringing her prison time exposure on those charges from 15 years up to 120 years. Would the state be likely to seek several decades in prison for the defendant in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case? Probably not. But this would be an example of how the state could use additional charges as leverage to help speed up the case or encourage the defendant to plead guilty and avoid taking the case to trial with the whole string of charges. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with battery, some for simple fights and others involving weapons and serious prison time. Each case has its own set of facts and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and fight for the best outcome in the case.

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.