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.