Jury’s decision to reduce charge to manslaughter thwarts prosecutors’ attempt to pursue death penalty on Jacksonville man

Prosecutors were actively seeking the death penalty for a man charged with first-degree murder, but the jury’s decision to convict on a lesser charge has put an end to those plans.  The charges stem from a shooting inside a Jacksonville apartment, for which each side has a very different story, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Prosecutors said the man went to the apartment to kill the person who lived there because the man had snitched to police about drug dealers, the newspaper reported. The defendant said he went to the apartment to sell the man’s wife drugs and then the two people attacked him and he shot in self-defense. The defendant was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder for shooting the man’s wife, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The only two possible sentences if someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to first-degree murder are life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors must indicate in advance whether they plan to seek the death penalty and did so in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case.

When a case ends up in a jury trial, the jurors often have other options than the charges the state is presenting during the trial. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, manslaughter is often one of those options, known technically as a “lesser included offense.” To meet the elements of first-degree murder, the state must be able to prove that the killing was premeditated. The jury did not buy that in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, instead choosing manslaughter. Manslaughter is used primarily when people are involved in a fight and someone ends up being killed. By choosing manslaughter, the jury did find the defendant had some responsibility in the death. Another option would have been to find him not guilty, essentially saying the defendant acted in self-defense.
Most importantly in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is that the manslaughter charge takes the death penalty off the table. The death penalty can only be given when someone is convicted of first-degree murder. Because there was a firearm used in this case, the defendant can still be given life in prison, though it will be interesting to see where the judge lands on sentencing. The jury also deadlocked on the attempted murder charge, so the state still has to decide if it wants to retry that one charge. The state cannot retry any of the other charges because the jury has already reached a verdict.

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.