Articles Posted in Violent Crimes in Jacksonville

Jaguar player, Dan Skuta, was arrested just over a week ago for an incident allegedly occurring in an Orlando bar.  According to a report in the Florida Times Union, police claim Skuta hit a woman in the face and was arrested for battery.  Apparently, officers were approached outside the bar and told that the player hit the woman.  Even though there were no visible injuries, police chose to arrest Skuta based on what the woman and her friend told them.  This is very common.  It is not clear whether or not there were any other witnesses on the alleged victim’s side, but Skuta’s criminal defense attorney told the media there are witnesses on Skuta’s side to be presented to the State Attorney’s office in Orlando.  Also, Skuta appeared to have an injury below his eye, which lends credibility to his claim that he was the one hit in the incident.

Battery is a violent crime in Florida and occurs when you intentionally touch someone against their will or intentionally hurt someone.  This is a first degree misdemeanor and the maximum punishment is a year in jail.  As you can see in the case above, it is not necessary for the alleged victim to have visible injuries to prove a battery occurred.  Pushing someone can be considered a battery.  Taking someone by the arm and leading them somewhere can be considered a battery.  A typical sentence for a battery charge will include some form of anger management and the payment of fines and court costs.  Also, if you are convicted of a battery, even though it is a misdemeanor, it will follow the rest of your life.  As I said before, this Florida misdemeanor is considered a crime of violence and can prevent you from getting certain jobs if employers fear you have the propensity to commit violence in the future.

Witnesses are going to play an important part in this case.  Presumably all of the witnesses were consuming alcohol and their ability to perceive events may be questionable.  Witness credibility is incredibly important to proving a criminal case, especially when an alleged victim may have motivation to lie.  Attorneys must analyze whether or not the witness, including the alleged victim, had some interest in how the case progresses.  People are motivated by all kinds of things, like attention and money.  It will be interesting to see if the prosecutor’s office decides to file formal charges against the player.  In order to file a criminal case, the prosecutor must believe there is a reasonable probability of conviction if the case goes to trial.

A St. Johns County jury found a man guilty last month – but not of the first-degree charge the state indicted him on.  Instead, the man was found guilty of second-degree murder and kidnapping, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said the man and his roommate beat another man to death and tried to burn the body and a car on a deserted road, the newspaper reported. The roommate pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier and agreed to testify against the man who went to trial in the case, the newspaper reported.

The difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder can be enormous when it comes to sentencing and this St. Johns County Violent Crimes Case is no different. If a person is convicted of first-degree murder in Florida, there are only two sentencing options: life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. If the charge is second-degree murder, the judge has far more latitude in terms of issuing a sentence. Life in prison is still an option, and many people are sentenced to life in prison on second-degree murder charges, but there is at least a chance now that this 27-year-old defendant will be released.

For a person to be found guilty of first-degree murder, the state must be able to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a premeditated intent to kill another person. In this St. Johns County Murder Case, the jury apparently had an issue with determining premeditation. Second-degree murder, however is defined by statute as: “The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual.”  During a St. Johns County Criminal Trial, jurors are informed of the charges against the defendant, but also in most cases given a list of other charges that they could apply. These are called “lesser included charges,” and this St. Johns County Murder Case is an example of a jury choosing that option.

A man set for trial this month on charges that he killed three people in 2013 will have his case heard in St. Johns County, a judge ruled.  The man is accused of killing his wife and his two children in Central Florida, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. Police said the man has admitted to killing his wife but has denied any involvement in the death of their children, who were last seen in 2013 and are believed to be dead, though they have not been found, the newspaper reported. As one might imagine, the case has generated a plenty of attention from newspapers and television stations in the area.

The defendant’s criminal defense attorneys filed a motion to have the trial moved outside of Central Florida, arguing that the media attention would harm the man’s right to a fair trial in front of an impartial jury. These requests are made frequently in high-profile Florida Murder Cases, but are not often granted. Moving the trial can be expensive and cumbersome, and prosecutors in most cases will argue against moving the trial.   In this case, however, the judge agreed to move the trial from Deland in Central Florida to the St. Johns County Courthouse in St. Augustine, the newspaper reported. The two cities are about 75 miles away. When trials are moved for the purpose of being able to convene an impartial jury, the move is often made to the closest city where the sides can agree jurors wouldn’t know about the case. They key is moving it outside the media market. Jurors in St. Johns County residents may have heard of the case, but likely would not be aware of the intense media attention that was given to the case in the Daytona Beach or Orlando media markets.

Another issue is whether the media attention has been concentrated to a particular region. For example, defense attorneys sought to move the trial of a Jacksonville man eventually convicted of shooting a teen in a dispute over loud music at a gas station. The judge decided to keep the trial in Jacksonville, at least in part because the case had generated so much national and statewide media attention that moving the trial 75 miles as in this Florida Murder Case would not make that much of a difference.  The right to trial in front of a fair and impartial jury is essential to our criminal justice system. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty and it the state’s responsibility to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all types of crimes and will thoroughly investigate the case against your or your loved one so you can make the best decision on how to proceed with the case.

A jury did not agree with the state’s assertion that a man who shot his sister’s ex-boyfriend as part of an ongoing dispute was guilty of first-degree murder.  Instead, the jury convicted the man last month on a lesser charge of manslaughter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The difference is significant for the 22-year-old defendant. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, he faced a mandatory life sentence. Now, he faces a maximum term of 25 years in state prison when he is sentenced next month.

The man who was killed and two of his friends drove to the defendant’s house to fight him after the men had a disagreement earlier in the day, the newspaper reported. The defendant walked out of his house and fired warning shots into the ground to scare the men off, the newspaper reported. When the men drove off, the defendant fired into the car, claiming self-defense, the newspaper reported. The jury did not fully buy the self-defense claim, but they also did not find the premeditation needed to convict the man of first-degree murder. In Jacksonville Felony Crimes like this, there are often alternative charges the jury can consider, known as lesser-included charges. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, the defendant was eventually convicted of manslaughter in the death of the one man and attempted manslaughter for firing into the car with two other men inside. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. Attempted manslaughter is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison on each count.

Manslaughter is often a charge that applies when people get into a fight and one of the people ends being killed. Clearly, the jury thought the defendant was responsible to some degree for the death. But the fact that the man showed up with friends at the defendant’s home with the intent to fight, and likely not one-on-one, probably factored into the jury’s decision to dismiss the notion of first-degree murder. The counter to that argument is that the defendant had appeared to eliminate the threat with the warning shot and the men were leaving when he fired into the car. The issue then becomes whether that qualifies as premeditation, or whether it’s still an act of defending oneself.  Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney represents people charged with serious felony charges and will investigate the case against you or your loved one and review the options on how to proceed.

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.

A Jacksonville man convicted of second-degree murder and two other serious felonies was sentenced this month to 35 years in state prison.  The man and his roommate arranged to meet another man for a drug deal, but instead planned to rob the person, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The altercation escalated and the 21-year-old defendant ended up shooting the robbery target, who died at a local hospital. The defendant was initially charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and carrying a concealed firearm. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, as well as the other two charges.

The difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case is extremely important, especially given the way the sentencing turned out. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two possible punishments in a first-degree murder case – life in prison or the death penalty. The judge would not have any discretion in the sentencing. The state was not seeking this death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case. But in some cases, the state looks to charge with first-degree murder to force the defendant’s hand in terms of pleading guilty and not going to trial.  Second-degree murder carries the possibility of a life sentence, as does the first-degree felony armed robbery charge, but the life sentence is not mandatory. The judge could have given a sentence between 25 years and life in prison. It’s a minor detail in a case like this, but the carrying a concealed weapon is a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.

There is a second defendant in this case who is also charged with murder, though the defendant sentenced to 35 years is the one that is accused of pulling the trigger in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. It’s rare for a person who is less culpable to receive a longer sentence, so in all likelihood he is looking at about 35 years or less. What is not known, and now does not matter, is whether the co-defendant had agreed to testify against the alleged shooter in exchange for a lighter sentence. That frequently happens, but the person agreeing to cooperate is sentenced after the other case is done – strictly to ensure the cooperating witness holds up his or her end of the bargain.  Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and lay out all of the information so you can make the best decision going forward.

A now-former Nassau County corrections officer was arrested for his role in an altercation with an inmate earlier this summer.  The corrections officer, who was fired last month, is now facing a misdemeanor battery charge for the July incident, according to First Coast News. The television report shows some of the video from the jail and says the incident started with a verbal confrontation with the inmate and the officer. The officer told investigators he confronted the inmate about comments he made to a female inmate when the man took an aggressive stance and the confrontation turned physical, the television station reported.

The former officer is now charged with battery, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. As far as criminal charges go, this Nassau County Battery Case is relatively minor because there is no possibility of the defendant ending up in state prison, and it is rare for a person to receive a year in county jail for what amounts to a fight. But, the allegation and subsequent charge has already cost the defendant his job. And, will the state, and eventually the judge, look differently on this case because the officer was in a position of authority? There is a certain amount of confrontation that happens in jails and prisons and the degree to which the officer is perceived as the aggressor will likely be a determining factor in the case. If the guard is seen as defending himself, that’s one thing. The state obviously felt here was more to it, or the officer would not be facing criminal charges.  Just how the case goes could be a factor for Nassau County down the road. In many inmate cases such as this Nassau County Battery Case, the inmate will sue the county in civil court for damages as a result of the incident. While civil and criminal cases have far different standards and procedures, it does not help the county’s legal position if the officer is found guilty by a jury of his peers. It’s highly likely that any civil suit would come after the criminal case is resolved, simply because it changes the dynamics of the case. While civil cases come up frequently, it is rare for an officer to be criminally charged in an incident such as this Nassau County Battery Case.

Our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney represents people charge with all types of crimes – from misdemeanor battery charges on up to capital crimes. Our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, explain various options and allow you or your loved one to make an informed decision on how to proceed with the case.

A man charged with second-degree murder is the death of a party host was convicted of a lesser charge this month.  Jurors instead chose to find the defendant guilty of manslaughter for hitting a man with a baseball bat during an argument, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The victim had asked the defendant to leave his house as a party was winding down, but the man instead grabbed a bat and swung it at him, the newspaper reported. The man died from his injuries a day after the incident, the newspaper reported.

The jury’s decision for manslaughter instead of second-degree murder is very significant for the potential sentence in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. While both charges are first-degree felonies, the sentencing requirements are very different. If the defendant in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case was convicted of second-degree murder, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison. However, because the charge was reduced to manslaughter with a weapon, the maximum charge is now 30 years in prison. The defendant in this case, 36, is young enough that he could expect to be released from prison even if he is given the maximum sentence by the judge.

There are varying degrees of manslaughter, and this was among the more serious charges the jury could have chosen. The baseball bat, in this case, was deemed to be a weapon by the jurors, which made the charge a first-degree felony and the maximum penalty 30 years in state prison. In many other Jacksonville Manslaughter Cases, the charge is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. This type of charge is used, for example, when people are in a fistfight and a punch or a person hitting their head on the concrete results in a death. While this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case was also a fight, the bat was used in the fatal blow that led to the man’s death, which made the case a first-degree felony.

A 13-year-old boy was charged as an adult this month in the murder of one man and the attempted murder of a second person.  Police said the boy and two others, and 18-year-old and a 17-year-old, met two men at a Jacksonville gas station to exchange guns, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. After the trade was complete, one of the men was shot dead and a second was shot and injured as he tried to run away, the newspaper reported. The 13-year-old is now charged with first-degree murder in the death of the man, attempted murder in the shooting of the other man, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted juvenile delinquent.

Typically, a first-degree murder charge only has two possible sentences – life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Because the defendant is a juvenile, neither life in prison nor the death penalty are options in this Jacksonville Murder Case. If he is convicted, the judge would then issue a sentence of life in prison, but add a date for the defendant to be eligible for a hearing on being released. Typically, that term is about 40 years.  The both is among several boys recently charged as adults with murder, including a 12-year-old charged with killing a homeless man last year. Of the three people police suspect in this Jacksonville Murder Case, two have been arrested and the 17-year-old is still on the loose. There is often some room to have the charges reduced for providing information in the case, but that’s if the person is on the periphery of the case. From what has been reported in the local media, police think the 13-year-old is the one who pulled the trigger, so it’s unlikely he’ll be able to work much of a deal with the state in this Jacksonville Murder Case.  There is a completely separate court system designed to deal with juveniles. But the state has the option to charge youth accused of serious crimes as adults. That is common practice locally in cases where the charge is far less serious than murder, so it is highly unlikely this case will be anywhere but adult court.

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.

Prosecutors announced this month that they have charged a 15-year-old boy with first-degree murder in the killing of a store clerk.  The boy is accused of demanding money from a convenience store clerk and then shooting him when the clerk wasn’t moving fast enough, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. After the shooting, the boy got into a stolen car driven by a 16-year-old boy who led police on a high-speed chase into another county, the newspaper reported. The 15-year-old boy is also charged with armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm, the newspaper reported. All three are serious felony charges, but the main charge in this case is first-degree murder.

In a typical St. Johns County Murder Case, there are two possible sentences if someone pleads guilty to or is convicted of first-degree murder: life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. However, the sentencing possibilities are different in this case because the defendant is only 15 years old. He can still be charged as an adult in this St. Johns County Murder Case, but he cannot be sentenced as an adult would be. For example, the death penalty is not an option when juveniles are convicted of murder. Also, there must be some chance for release, even if it ends up being denied. The state prosecutor told the newspaper it would likely be 40 years before the release would be considered, assuming the boy either pleaded guilty or was convicted by a jury. So he could be sentenced to life in prison, with the condition that he could apply for release in 40 years, or whatever length of time the judge deems appropriate.  Courts have gone back and forth on life sentences for juveniles and the laws have been driven recently by the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices have struck down life sentences for juveniles, but have left it up to individual states to determine the lengths of sentences – even though the federal courts have ruled that 70-year sentences for juveniles are too long and essentially amount to a life sentence.

On serious felony charges, such as murder and armed robbery, it was highly unlikely the state would ever choose to prosecute the case in juvenile court. But even in adult court, there are still sentencing guidelines that differentiate between boys and men.  Our St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of teens on a variety of charges, from misdemeanors on up to serious felonies in adult court, as this boy is charged with. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and provide information so you can make the best decision on how to proceed with the case.