Judge sentences killer to death, despite Supreme Court’s history of overturning

While presiding over a murder sentencing last week, a Jacksonville judge talked about the Florida Supreme Court’s practice of reversing death sentences when the only qualifying factor is that the killing occurred during the commission of a felony.
But Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud said this case was different and chose the death penalty for convicted killer Michael Mulugetta Yacob, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Yacob was convicted in the murder of a 19-year-old convenience store clerk in 2008. A jury had voted 10-2 in October to recommend the death penalty. Every death sentence in the state must get final approval from the Florida Supreme Court.

Several factors can elevate a murder to a death penalty case – including premeditation and if the killing occurred during the commission of another felony. But any gray area in this case, Soud said, according to the newspaper, was completely eliminated by the chilling crime scene video Soud narrated again during sentencing. It showed Moussa Maida locking himself inside the cashier’s booth and trying to comply with Yacob, who shot him anyway.

In death penalty cases in Florida, the defense has an opportunity to present mitigating factors – typically family and friends, maybe even doctors and prior teachers, that explain the convicted killer’s life leading up to the murder. Yacob went against his criminal defense attorney’s advice and did not present any, the newspaper reported. The judge tried to get that on the record several times, according to the newspaper, repeatedly asking Yacob if he wanted to have his family or others testify. Yacob refused, hammering home the point that the client ultimately has the final say in all aspects of the cases – from plea negotiations to trial strategy to who will testify in a sentencing hearing.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, has represented thousands of clients and has the experience to advise you on the best options for you or your family member. What a client chooses to do with that information is ultimately up to him or her. If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, P.A. at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.