Prosecutors take death penalty off the table, man pleads guilty to murder charge

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.