Florida Supreme Court Overturns Homicide Conviction Finding Defense Theory Not Disproved

The Florida Supreme Court recently overturned the first-degree murder conviction for a 2013 crime committed when he was a teenager. He was supposed to be in prison until he was in his 70s. Now, assuming he gets no further time, he’ll walk out in his 40s.Fort Lauderdale homicide defense

That’s a rare outcome. Fort Lauderdale homicide defense lawyers know that the best defense is an early one. That means the first few minutes, hours, days and weeks after serious criminal charges are filed can be absolutely critical to building your case and discrediting the one brought by the prosecution.

Think about it: Police interrogation stops the moment you make a clear, unambiguous request to have an attorney present. (If not, whatever you say thereafter will probably be inadmissible in court.)  That’s less of your own word they have to twist against you (your silence can’t be used as evidence of guilt). The sooner your attorney is on board, the better the odds of gathering key evidence, witness statements, surveillance video and more. Finally, negotiation of charges is more likely to take place in those early stages, before charges are even finalized.

Contact Fort Lauderdale Homicide Lawyer as Soon as Possible

In terms of severity ranking of Florida crimes, murder (statutorily referred to as homicide or manslaughter) is just about as serious as it gets. If you’re facing a homicide or manslaughter charge in Florida, you absolutely cannot wait. Your Fort Lauderdale homicide defense attorney will explain the exact amount of time you face – from a minimum mandatory 12 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter to a lifetime of incarceration for first-degree murder. If the crime is a capital offense, you could even face the death penalty.

If those charges aren’t immediately dropped, negotiated down to a lesser charge before filing, pleaded down latter before the end of trial or you don’t secure a not guilty or acquittal verdict: Your chances of a successful challenge at that point are very low.

That’s why when you read about the recent case of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to shave 35 years off the sentence of a state inmate by overturning his first-degree murder conviction – recognize such outcomes aren’t the norm.

Overturned Florida Homicide Conviction Not the Typical Outcome

In appealing his case first through the lower courts and then finally up to the Florida Supreme Court – six years after his arrest – he argued the trial and appellate court should have granted his motion for acquittal and resentencing. Florida Supreme Court justices largely agreed.

As in any criminal case, it is the prosecutors who bear the burden of proof. Reasonable doubt is the standard by which cases from petty larceny to first-degree murder are decided. In this case, the defendant asserted he was acting in defense in the murder of another young man. Defendant and his cousin were riding to a local gas station on his cousin’s bicycle, defendant on the handlebars.

There was a confrontation with two other young men on bicycles. Testimony is conflicting, but something happened causing one or all to fall from their bikes. At that point, defendant says one of the other boys pulled a gun and tried to rob him and his cousin. The gun fell and defendant picked it up, firing at the two, killing one. Testimony of the other surviving bicyclist was conflicting.

In reconsidering the approach of the trial court, the Florida Supreme Court quashed the conviction. However, it still kept the attempted murder conviction in place, finding that because defendant hesitated just before the shooting, jurors could have reasonably found him guilty. (The standard for review on appeal is different from the initial conviction – another reason talking to an attorney sooner rather than later is important.)

The conviction for attempted murder on the surviving individual means he’ll still serve a sentence of 25 years. His appellate lawyer, while noting he was grateful for the 35-year reduction, said the court’s reasoning was a bit confusing. It is true that during sentencing, courts routinely apply the law to the facts to reach a result that is fair. However, as the appellate lawyer noted, sometimes “courts will stretch the facts or the law to reach a desired result.” He opined that appears to be the case here, as it seems odd to assert the defendant was acting in self-defense when he shot one alleged attacker, but not the other one. He doubts a jury would have reached that same conclusion on the basis of defendant’s “hesitation.”

One justice dissented, arguing both convictions should remain intact and defendant should be resentenced.

Again, trying to have oversights and errors corrected after the fact in the Florida criminal justice system is an uphill climb. Contacting a Fort Lauderdale homicide defense lawyer as soon as possible offers the best shot at a favorable outcome.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Florida Justices Overturn Teen Murder Conviction on Self-Defense Theory, Jan. 7, 2019, Law.com

More Blog Entries:

Credibility of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, Like Many Forensics, Under Fire, June 21, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Homicide Defense Lawyer Blog

Justia Lawyer Rating for Richard Ansara