Articles Posted in Violent Crimes in Jacksonville

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.

State prosecutors dropped the first-degree murder charges against a woman inside a home where two people were killed when police raided the suspected meth lab.  Instead, the woman pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, one for the detective who was shot and the other for the man who shot the detective and was then killed by police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman also pleaded guilty to two more drug charges and was sentenced last month to a combined 30 years in state prison, the newspaper reported. Had the state not reduced the first-degree murder charge, she would have been sentenced to mandatory life in prison. The only two sentences possible for first –degree murder are life in prison and the death penalty.

The interesting piece of this Clay County Murder Case is that four people were charged with murder but never fired a shot. One was sentenced to two life sentences and another received 50 years in state prison. The fourth, who was 16 at the time and living in the house with his mother (who received 50 years), has not yet been to trial. Florida law, which applied in this Clay County Murder Case, allows the state to charge a person with murder if he or she was committing a felony at the time when a murder occurred. Because the people inside the home were either making, selling or in possession of methamphetamines, the charges could apply. Police said they smelled cooking methamphetamines when they approached the home, the newspaper reported. So the people inside the home were all charged with both the murder of the police detective and the man who shot him, and was subsequently shot by the police.

Felony murder can also be charged in Clay County Murder Cases where, for example, a store clerk has a heart attack when a gunman is robbing the store. The only elements that need to be proven are: the defendant committed a felony and someone was killed. It is unusual for the state to charge first-degree murder, as it did in this Clay County Murder Case, but within the bounds of the law.

A Jacksonville man convicted of killing a firefighter’s wife will spend the rest of his life in prison.  The man was facing the possibility of the death penalty, but the judge issued the life sentence last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man was convicted in April of first-degree murder, rape and armed robbery, the newspaper reported. Days after the conviction, the jury reconvened to address the issue of the death penalty.

In Jacksonville Murder Cases, and across Florida, there are only two possible sentences when someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to first-degree murder: life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. If the state is seeking the death penalty, once the trial is over the jury reviews the case and then makes a decision one way or the other on the sentence. Jurors vote individually and the results are then read in court for the judge. This is the most prominent circumstance where a jury does not have to be unanimous. To convict a person of a crime, or the completely exonerate a person, all of the jurors must be in agreement. If a jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge declares the case a mistrial. From there, prosecutors must decide if they want to take the case to trial again, or continue negotiations with the defense.

But, at the death penalty phase in a Jacksonville Murder Case, jurors just take a vote and let the chips fall where they may. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the jury recommended life in prison, not the death penalty. The judge chose to follow the jury’s recommended, which happens in virtually every Jacksonville Murder Case involving the death penalty.  A case that will head to the U.S. Supreme Court next year could require all states to have the jury make a unanimous decision on the death penalty before a person could be sentenced to death. Florida is one of only three states that only requires a majority vote from the jury to recommend the death penalty.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused on any type of crime, from misdemeanors on up to murder charges. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney knows the various sentencing laws and the minimum mandatory requirements, and can explain those to you or your loved one so you have a better understanding of what to expect and can make an informed decision going forward.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next year that could drastically change how the death penalty is handed down in Florida.  The case could also result in more than 60 people from Northeast Florida on Death Row having their sentence reevaluated, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The decision will focus on whether or not a jury recommendation for the death penalty must be unanimous. Florida is one of only three states with the death penalty that does not require the jury to unanimously recommend death, the newspaper reported.  In Florida, the recommendation only needs to be a majority of the 12 jurors and then the judge makes the final decision. Rarely, though, does a judge ever decide to go against the recommendation of the jury.  The case was brought by a man in the Panhandle who is on Death Row after the jury recommended the death penalty by a 7-5 vote. Of the 75 people on Death Row from Northeast Florida, the newspaper reported, 62 were put there by a decision in a Jacksonville Murder Case that was not unanimous. The argument for keeping the majority vote is that the jury has to unanimously agree the person is guilty to even get to the penalty phase. So, for example, there cannot be an 11-1 vote to find someone guilty of murder – or of any other charge, from trespassing to drug trafficking to armed robbery. The jury’s decision must be unanimous.  If a jury cannot come to an agreement on a verdict, that is what’s known as a “hung jury,” and the judge must declare a mistrial. From there, the prosecution can decide whether it wants to take the case to trial again, or go back to the negotiating table with the defense to see if a plea deal can be arranged. The same is true if the jury is leaning toward a not guilty verdict. Just because it might be 10-2 in favor of not guilty during plea deliberations does not mean the person will be found not guilty. The jury must come to unanimous agreement in either direction.  The argument to make the death penalty decision unanimous is that the decision for the state to take someone’s life is so critical that if there’s any doubt at all in the minds of the jury – the appropriate sentence is life in prison. The pending Supreme Court decision is an important one and could have a large impact on people sentenced to death in Jacksonville Murder Cases.  Criminal law is filled with technicalities and various procedures that can dramatically affect the outcome in a Jacksonville Felony Case. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows the ins and outs of the law and will fully investigate your case so you or your loved one can make an informed decision going forward.
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 Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police have opened an investigation into a Jacksonville man accused of throwing a cup of liquid at another car during an apparent argument.  This is probably something that happens daily on roads across Jacksonville, but there’s one reason this one has bubbled up to earn media attention: It was caught on video. A woman who said she honked at the driver she said sped through a school zone pulled out her phone to capture what she said was aggressive behavior, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. No charges have been filed, but police said they are investigating a police criminal mischief charge.

Criminal mischief is essentially vandalism, and the crime would be throwing the drink at the woman’s vehicle. Since the value of the damage is likely less than $200, the charge would be a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in county jail. If the value is between $201 and $1,000, the charge would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. If the value was more than $1,000, criminal mischief is then elevated to a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. This is highly unlikely in this Jacksonville Road Rage Case because prosecutors told the newspaper the case was being investigated as a misdemeanor.

None of the actual root causes of the argument are part of the charges, including running a red light and speeding in a school zone. In these Jacksonville Traffic Cases, the alleged acts would have to be observed by a police officer for any charges to be filed. The only exception in traffic cases are red light cameras cases, though those are also subject to their own legal questioning. The woman also accused the van driver of threatening her, but that part of the incident was not caught on video. The only potentially criminal piece that was filmed was the throwing of the drink.  Even that piece of this Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case could be pretty thin if it was brought before a jury of the driver’s peers. The case will eventually become a case of “he said, she said.” If the woman thought far enough in advance to film the man from her cell phone while driving, did she do anything before the filming that might have instigated or escalated the incident? And by following the man to his home, did she continue the incident and then herself become the aggressor?  The video makes for good footage for the evening news, but isn’t as solid when it comes to proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all types of crimes, including traffic cases, misdemeanors and felonies.

A man who was a teenager at the time he was arrested on murder and other charges, pleaded guilty this month and avoided a potential life sentence.  The man, now 21, pleaded guilty in connection with the shooting death of an 18-year-old man in 2013, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by an adjudicated juvenile delinquent, the newspaper reported. Both the murder charge and the armed robbery charge have a maximum sentence of life in prison. He was sentenced instead to 35 years in prison in this Jacksonville Murder Case. The murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 years on state prison.

There were two people facing similar charges in this Jacksonville Murder Case and the second has not pleaded guilty. He is still awaiting trial, the newspaper reported. Cases like this always lead to speculation that the person pleading first will be testifying against the second defendant. The man’s Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney told the newspaper the plea does not require him to testify in the case against the co-defendant. One key element in this Jacksonville Murder Case is that the man has already been sentenced. Typically, when the deal is contingent on cooperation, the state will ask the judge to postpone sentencing until after the trial in which the person is supposed to testify. This is done so the state still has some sort of leverage over the defendant. If the sentence that reflects cooperation has already been given, there is no incentive for the person to actually testify against the other person in his or her Jacksonville Murder Trial.

If the person isn’t testifying, or the state does not believe the testimony to be crucial to proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it doesn’t matter when the person is sentenced. From the media reports in this Jacksonville Murder Case, it is not clear which of the two men was the shooter. The man who was sentenced was arrested after police received a tip that he was bragging about being involved in the first murder of 2013, the newspaper reported. He was charged with murder after lab results showed a gun found on him matched the one used in the murder.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people charged with all types of crimes – from misdemeanor charges and traffic tickets on up to capital felonies such as murder and armed robbery. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges against you or your loved one and provide you with information so you can make the best decision on how to proceed in the case.

The state Supreme Court this month tossed out a 70-year sentence given to a Jacksonville boy who was 14 at the time he committed an armed robbery.  The defendant, now 20, will have to be resentenced, as will likely hundreds of defendants across the state who received similar lengthy sentences, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was arrested in 2009 for shooting a gas station owner, the newspaper reported. The boy pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery. Both are first-degree felonies with possible sentences up to life in prison. The boy in this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

The Supreme Court ruled that the 70-year sentence for a teen was essentially a life sentence, and that went against the intent of a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling. That decision banned life sentences for juveniles charged with any crime other than murder. When juveniles are sentenced to life in prison, a review must occur after 25 years. If a juvenile is not given a life sentence on a crime that would warrant one, such as murder, the minimum sentence is 35 years.  But for cases other than murder, the courts have not had clear direction on how teens should be resentenced and perhaps this Florida Supreme Court decision will provide more clarity. These decisions apply to teens who are charged with crimes as an adult – not simply teens who have relatively minor charges that stay within the juvenile court system. In many instances in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, prosecutors will bypass the juvenile court system and immediately throw the case into adult court.

What the Florida Supreme Court is at least partially saying in this ruling is: juveniles who commit crimes cannot be treated exactly like adults. That’s why there is a separate detention and punishment system for teens – with five levels of detention, from house arrest on up to what’s essentially a prison for teens. That’s why there is a separate type of sentencing for Youthful Offenders, which can cap the time at six years for someone who commits a crime before the age of 21. Those years can be split among probation and prison with, for example, four years in prison and two years of probation – or any combination thereof.  Juveniles can commit serious felonies and, without question, should face punishment and be held responsible for their actions. But the state also must balance the mental capacity of a 14-year-old when issuing a sentence that will keep him in prison into his 80s.

Two juries in the same courtroom came to different conclusions in the cases of two men charged with first-degree murder in what police described as a drug-related killing.  One man was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for his role in the death of two Jacksonville brothers who were shot and killed in their car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The second defendant is facing a new trial after a jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether he was guilty or not guilty. His Jacksonville Murder Case could be reopened for negotiations or scheduled for a new trial.

The trial logistics of this Jacksonville Murder Case are different than most. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, four people were allegedly going to buy drugs from the two brothers and the two brothers were both shot in the face and killed. One defendant already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in this 2013 incident and is awaiting sentencing. The alleged shooter is charged with first-degree murder and the state is planning to seek the death penalty against him. That left the two men who recently went to trial. The facts of the case were similar enough that the state could present the cases against both at the same time. But, separate juries were assembled for each of the defendants in this Jacksonville Murder Case. So when it came time to deliberate and discuss the charges, one jury went into one room and the other went into a separate room.

This practice is done so every defendant has a fair trial and is judged on his or her own actions as offered as evidence by the state. If a jury was considering both cases at the same time, the actions of one defendant could influence their opinion of the other. A person’s right to a fair trial in front of a jury of his or her peers is essential – especially in a first-degree murder case. There are only two possible sentences when someone is convicted of first-degree murder: life in prison or the death penalty. The 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder could face a sentence that would allow him to be released from prison at some point, but he likely agreed to cooperate in the case. The 21-year-old defendant now facing a new trial could have a similar option, depending on what he and the state choose to do with the case. If the case does go to trial a second time, the jury will not be told it’s been to trial before – just like previous criminal charges aren’t allowed in as evidence in the case.

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.