A Jacksonville man was charged with first-degree murder as the state alleged he was one of four people involved in the killing of a local man. A jury of his peers, however, did not fully agree and found Corey Bright guilty instead of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. So instead of looking at a mandatory life sentence, Bright was sentenced this week to 20 years in state prison, the newspaper reported.
Bright and three others were accused of ambushing a 22-year-old man because they were upset with the man's alleged domestic abuse toward his girlfriend, the newspaper reported. Witnesses said two of the men pulled out guns and started shooting, the newspaper reported. All four suspects were charged with first-degree murder and faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted. What the state was likely trying to do is charge all four with first-degree murder and hope at least one of the men who didn't fire the shots would speak out, be a witness for the state and point the finger at the shooters to help have his own charges significantly reduced. That does not appear to have worked in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. Another suspect pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced. The other two are still charged with first-degree murder and are awaiting trial, the newspaper reported. Now, it is possible the suspect who pleaded guilty could be working with the state, and that his sentencing is being delayed until the other two cases are resolved. In Bright's case, it appears the jury thought he was involved and used a weapon, but likely felt the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bright was indeed responsible for the man's death.
That can be the danger in overcharging crimes, or using the initial charge to attempt to get the suspect to plead guilty to a lesser charge - something that likely is more fitting of the crime in the first place. When a jury is read instructions before it starts deliberating in a Jacksonville Criminal Case, there are often other charges known as "lesser included offenses." For example, if someone like Bright is charged with first-degree murder, there is a list of other charges the jury can decide to find the defendant guilty of, if jurors don't think the initial charge was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In many Jacksonville Gun Crimes cases, jurors believe the suspect is guilty of something - perhaps just not the most serious charge the state could possibly file - and will look to the lesser included charges as a compromise. But, in many Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases, the state's game of hardball works. Some defendants feel they have too much to lose with a mandatory life sentence on the line in a trial, and try to plead guilty to second-degree murder in hopes of someday being released. The decision to plead or take a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case to trial is an individual choice that should be based on the facts of the case and the suspect's personal situation. What is the right call for one person may be more than another is willing to risk.
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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.