A Clay County child abduction and killing that grabbed national headlines reached its legal conclusion this week, as Jared Harrell pleaded guilty to killing 7-year-old Somer Thompson. As part of the deal, the state agreed not to seek the death penalty against Harrell, 26. He pleaded guilty to six counts, including murder and rape in the Somer killing, charges in a molestation of a young niece and child pornography. The plea caught many off guard, especially since the state had been reluctant to waive the death penalty in recent years and a trial was scheduled for later this year, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. State Attorney Angela Corey refuted claims about issues with Harrell’s confession and the DNA evidence, saying the plea would prevent years of appeals that are standard in death sentences.
Somer was abducted on her way home from a Clay County school in October 2009. Her body was found in a Georgia landfill two days later. Harrell was arrested on child porn charges four months later in Mississippi and named a person of interest in the case, then charged with Somer’s murder. A trial would have likely brought national media to the sleepy Clay County Courthouse in Green Cove Springs. A not guilty verdict would have sent shockwaves through the small community. But it would not have been the end of the legal road for Harrell. While the murder of Somer got the headlines, he still faced a handful of other charges – six of them mandatory life felonies. So if Harrell was found guilty of any of those six, he would receive the same penalty he got last week – life in prison.
Our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney sees hundreds of cases that are uphill battles. This case would certainly apply. Getting the best possible sentence is paramount to the representation and, in this case – given the mountain of cases against Harrell on top of the murder charge – sparing Harrell’s life is about all his Clay County criminal defense attorneys could do.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Orange Park or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County violent crimes and sex crimes lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.