Articles Posted in Violent Crimes in Jacksonville

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.

A 70-year-old Clay County woman is charged with two felonies after allegedly trying to hire a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law. Diana Costarakis is accused of meeting twice with the person she thought was a hitman, but was actually an undercover officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said she paid the officer $500 one day and $1,000 the following day as a down payment, the newspaper reported. The rest of the $5,000 to have the woman killed could come from the jewelry she would be wearing at the time of her death, Costarakis is accused to telling the officer, the newspaper reported.

Costarakis is charged with criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. Both charges are first-degree felonies in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy cases, the seriousness of the charge is based on the crime the person is soliciting or conspiring to commit. If the crime is a capital crime, such as murder, then soliciting and conspiracy charges are first-degree felonies. So Costarakis is looking at up to 60 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty on each count. As a general rule, the solicitation felony degree is one level down from the crime the person is soliciting for. So if the base crime is an armed robbery, a first-degree felony, soliciting or conspiring to commit an armed robbery would be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the conspiracy is based on a third-degree felony, the solicitation or conspiracy charge would be a misdemeanor.

The key in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case like this is the state’s ability to prove Costarakis was expressly paying to have the person killed. Police know that and, according to the newspaper report, asked her if the daughter should be killed. Costarakis is accused of saying, “If you don’t do it, I will,” the newspaper reported. On the surface, that doesn’t bode well – and neither do the two cash payments to the officer. Defenses to conspiracy and solicitation in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case can be that the suspect was backing out of the plan and changed his or her mind. There is no evidence to that end that has been released so far, but that wouldn’t be something police would voluntarily give up. It would, however, be subject to disclosure as the Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case moves forward. Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases often appear to be open-and-shut cases when police wrap them up in a tidy bow and present them to the media. But when an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney starts examining the case and investigating the details and tactics used by the police, an entirely different picture can sometimes emerge.

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

Prosecutors have finally dropped murder charges against a 98-year-old woman who was found mentally incompetent to stand trial over a year ago. In doing so, Amanda Stevenson now has access to her retirement benefits that had been suspended due to pending charges and those funds can be used for a private long-term care facility where she can live, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The back and forth in this St. Johns County Murder Case highlights the fact that a case doesn’t just end once a person is found to be mentally incompetent to face the charges.

Stevenson was charged with second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of her nephew, with whom she had an ongoing dispute, the newspaper reported. A year later, Stevenson, who suffers from dementia, was found incompetent, but remained in jail while state agencies went back and forth as to who would be able to take care of her. In May, she was finally released from jail and placed in a mental health facility under the care of the state Department of Children and Families, the newspaper reported. In the motion dropping the charges, two doctors agreed that Stevenson was not going to regain mental competency, likely because of the stage of her dementia and her age, the newspaper reported. In many St. Johns County Murder Cases where mental competency is at issue, the person will be periodically evaluated to determine if competency can be regained – possibly through counseling or medication. The murder charge was punishable by up to life in prison. At 98, practically any sentence amounts to life in prison in this St. Johns County Murder Case.

But, as all of the legal wrangling was working itself out, her retirement benefits were frozen until the charges were formally dropped, the newspaper reported. Different pension and retirement plans operate differently. In terms of social security, payments are only supposed to be suspended when a person is convicted of a felony, not simply charged. But many state plans, for retired teachers or other state workers for example, and disability payments can be suspended once a person is jailed on charges. Part of the argument is that state and federal disability benefits are used to pay for living expenses and, if the person is incarcerated, the state is paying to take care of the person – regardless of whether or not the person has been convicted. Mental competency can be a serious issue, especially in St. Johns County Murder Cases, and the courts have complicated standards as to when a person is mentally able to stand trial – and when he or she is not. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can have your loved one evaluated by a mental health professional and present those findings to the court, if deemed necessary.

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 St. Johns County Murder Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Criminal charges will not be a part of a long-running feud between a Clay County School Board Member and a longtime critic. Police were investigating an incident where the opponent was videotaping people coming out of a Clay County Commission meeting, when the opponent alleges the Board Member’s husband shoved the camera into his face, knocking him into a row of chairs and breaking his camera, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police investigators talked to both parties and witnesses, and also reviewed the video as part of their decision not to charge the husband in this case, the newspaper reported.

In making decisions on whether to file criminal charges in Clay County Battery Cases, police and prosecutors must look at all of the facts and how the case would be presented to a jury. As the police spokeswoman says in the Times-Union article, “Just the fact that there is a video, isn’t necessarily proof of an assault.” That statement rings particularly true in Clay County Criminal Cases where there is an ongoing dispute, such as this one. Detectives and prosecutors aren’t typically looking to get involved in disputes such as this – and are oftentimes used to elevate the profile of one of the parties and make the other look bad, as appears to be the case here.

If charges would have been filed, they likely would have been misdemeanor battery charges. While the victim said he injured his back, those injuries would not likely rise to the level of a felony charge. In fact, in some Clay County Battery allegations such as this, the victim is planning on filing a civil suit to get some money out of the alleged attacker and the criminal suit would be used as part of the case. It’s important to know that just because criminal charges are not filed, it does not mean there won’t be some sort of fault found in a civil case. The standard of proof needed in a criminal case – beyond a reasonable doubt – is far higher than what is needed in a civil case to find someone liable for injuries and costs. If you know police are investigating you or a loved one for an alleged crime, the first thing to do is contact a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. An attorney can be with you during any interviews with police and help advise you of your rights during the investigation.

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

A jury did not find enough evidence to convict a man of manslaughter in the death of another partygoer, but instead found him guilty of a lesser charge of felony battery. The man was accused of punching another man repeatedly while the man was already on the ground after a series of fights broke out during a bonfire, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The victim was rushed to the hospital but died from his injuries, the newspaper reported.

Police said another man initially punched the victim in the face and the man fell to the ground, the newspaper reported. That’s when the man who went to trial this week jumped in, the newspaper reported. The reduction from manslaughter down to battery is very significant for the defendant. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Felony battery, however, is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month, and it will be interesting to see if the judge – who was on the bench for the entire trial – goes toward the maximum because of the reduced charge. In Florida, manslaughter is the “killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification” and “cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder.”

In this Jacksonville Battery Case, the jurors likely had a difficult time with who threw the fatal punch or punches that night. The state felt it knew, however, and charged the man who initially knocked the man to the ground with battery – not manslaughter. The state tried to prove that the defendant continued to hit the man once he was on the ground, and at that point it became more than just a fight. In most Jacksonville Felony Cases that result in someone’s death, prosecutors will charge the defendant with some type of charge that acknowledges the killing. Usually it’s manslaughter or first- or second-degree murder. But that doesn’t always mean the proof is there. In this Jacksonville Battery Case, it was not – according to a jury of the defendant’s peers. In Jacksonville Criminal Defense Trials, the judge will read the jury the requirements of the charges – and lesser included charges the jury can use as alternative.

Jacksonville Felony Cases hinge on what the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and then lay out the options so you or your loved one can make the best decisions 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 Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A Jacksonville man who prosecutors had been looking to execute pleaded guilty to a lesser charge this month. The man had been facing a first-degree murder charge for allegedly killing his mother in 2010 their Jacksonville home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Instead, the state backed away from the initial charge and allowed the man to plead guilty to second-degree murder, the newspaper reported. Following the plea, the defendant, now 25, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the newspaper reported.

While a murder charge is obviously very serious, and the 35-year sentence illustrates that point, there is a significant difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two options for sentencing in a first-degree murder case: life in prison or the death penalty. The judge has no latitude at all. But when the charge is second-degree murder, the judge can sentence the defendant anywhere from 25 years in prison to life in prison. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the judge went toward to lower end. If the man stays out of trouble in prison, he will likely be released in 30 years, so at age 55 – a significantly better result than life in prison, which would have been the best possible outcome if the first-degree murder charge stuck.

In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the state initially filed the paperwork to seek the death penalty, but later backed off. It is another instance that looks like the state is using the death penalty as a bargaining chip in negotiations. There are various aggravating factors the state must prove in order to use the death penalty – and there are legal issue specific to the degrees of murder. For example, for a charge to be first-degree murder, there must be some form of premeditation – even if for just a moment. Aggravating factors for the death penalty include whether the murder was “especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved.” In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the defendant was accused of beheading the victim and removing her eyeballs, so that likely would have qualified. The death penalty is, and should be, reserved for the worst of the worst and used sparingly. Either a Jacksonville Murder Case is a death case or it’s not. The death penalty should not be hung over a defendant’s head to pressure a plea to another charge.

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.