A Chicago Bears fan died after his throat was slashed this month and a man police have described as a jealous husband has been charged with murder. Chris Pettry’s neck was slashed with a pocketknife by a man who he’d been speaking with earlier in the evening, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said Matthew Hinson may have been upset that Pettry was talking to his wife, but witnesses said there did not appear to be a confrontation between the two men. Police found Hinson about a block away from the incident and, after a scuffle with police, arrested him in Jacksonville on a murder charge. The bloody knife was found in Hinson’s pocket and he is being held in jail without a Jacksonville bond. The exact charge has not been determined, but likely will be before Hinson’s formal arraignment at the end of the month.
The Jacksonville state attorney’s office will have a decision to make on just what to charge him with. If prosecutors decide to make it a first-degree murder case, the state will have to present the evidence to a grand jury. In the state of Florida, only a grand jury can make the call on a first-degree murder charge. When a case goes to a grand jury, it is not about “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” like a tradition trial would be. It is simply about the state showing it has enough of a case to charge the person and the jury is not being asked to determine guilt at that time. First-degree murder is a mandatory life felony, meaning if a person is convicted, the judge has no choice but to sentence the defendant to life in prison. Second-degree murder is also punishable by up to life in prison, but there is not a mandatory life sentence. The major difference between the two charges is premeditation. In a first-degree murder case, the state must prove the defendant made the decision prior to the act that he was going to kill someone. Premeditation does not have to be a long period of time, such as something a person had plotted out for weeks, but there does have to be enough time to make a decision.
With little evidence released thus far, it’s difficult to know if the state has enough to show Hinson was premeditated in the killing. One argument from a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney would be that Pettry snapped and, while he may have walked behind Pettry and slashed his throat, it was part of a confrontation and not something he planned enough to constitute first-degree murder. The difference is important for Hinson, who does not have a criminal record, according to the newspaper report. A second-degree murder charge opens the door to a potential negotiated plea – if the state is talking at this point. Hinson is likely looking at decades in prison, but a 50-year sentence would still beat a guaranteed lifetime behind bars.
If you or a loved one needs a Criminal Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Lawyer, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.