Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence in Jacksonville murder case

A Jacksonville man convicted of a 2008 murder should have been sentenced to life in prison, not sent to death row, the Florida Supreme Court ruled last week. The court found that the murder of a convenience store clerk did not meet the standards the state applies when considering sentencing a person to death, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Instead, Michael Yacob will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the newspaper reported.

In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two possible sentences in a first-degree murder case: life in prison or the death penalty. There are 16 types of circumstances that would allow the state to seek the death penalty in a Jacksonville Murder Case, including if it was committed during the commission of another felony. That was the only aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case and the Supreme Court ruled the case lined up with other cases whether the court has overturned the death penalty when a robbery was the only piece of the crime that was used to pursue the death penalty, the newspaper reported. Other factors that can be used in seeking the death penalty include if the victim was younger than 12, if the crime was committed by a convicted gang member or sexual predator, or if it was especially “heinous, atrocious or cruel,” according to state law. By design, what the legislature and courts are saying is the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst and should only be applied in extreme circumstances.

Locally, however, the state is often using the threat of the death penalty as a bargaining tool in getting people to plead to guilty to some sort of murder charge – usually second degree murder – to avoid a trial and take the death penalty off the table. Yacob is the fifth person in recent years sentenced to death locally who has had his sentence reversed, the newspaper reported. If the state is seeking the death penalty in a Jacksonville murder case, there are two phases to the trial. It starts with the initial trial and, if the person is found guilty of first-degree murder, a penalty phase follows. This is where both sides present their case and the same jury that decided the first phase makes a recommendation on the death penalty. And, unlike any other phase of Jacksonville Criminal Trials, the decision does not have to be unanimous. Ultimately, the judge makes the final decision, but rarely strays from the jury recommendation, which was 10-2 in favor of the death penalty in Yacob’s Jacksonville Murder 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 Murder Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.