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Capital Felony for Murder of Elected Official or Law Enforcement Agent

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A federal prosecutor was recently found dead on a Hollywood, Florida beach, as reported by CBS News. Investigators believe that he was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, or possibly another type of head trauma. While no arrests have been made and the death is still under investigation for foul play, the prosecutor worked in the major crimes unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, which brings to question whether his death was related to his position or a case he was involved with. When a public officer or public servant of the state or federal government is murdered, there is a special sentencing that takes place to determine the fate of the defendant. As per Florida code 838.014, a public servant is any officer or governmental employee entity of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch; a person other than a witness who acts as a general or special magistrate, receiver, auditor, arbitrator, umpire, referee, consultant, or hearing officer while performing a governmental function; or a recently elected official or candidate for office of any of the previously mentioned positions. 

When the Death Sentence is Invoked for a Capital Felony

As per Florida statute 921.141, after a conviction of capital murder (or a capital felony), a separate sentencing will determine whether the defendant will be sentenced to life in prison, or to death. However, the jury trial must reach a unanimous decision in favor of the death sentence before a judge can give said death sentence. This law was recently changed, where before, a judge could override a jury’s life over death recommendation. The following includes examples in which a special sentencing for the death sentence (for a capital felony) would occur, due to the extenuating circumstances. However, this is not an exhaustive list:

The capital felony was committed:

  • To avoid an arrest or to escape from custody;
  • For pecuniary (financial) gain;
  • To disrupt governmental function or law enforcement; and
  • Was particularly heinous, atrocious, or cruel.

The victim of the capital felony:

  • Was a law enforcement officer performing their duties;
  • Was an elected or appointed public official performing their duties and the motive for the offense was directly or partially related to their duties;
  • Was under the age of 12; and
  • Was vulnerable due to advanced age, disability, or because of their familial relationship with the defendant.

Contact a West Palm Beach Defense Attorney Today

Whether you have been charged for a capital or life felony, or any other type of crime, regardless of the severity, you need an experienced, aggressive legal team at your side. We encourage you to call the West Palm Beach Skier Law Firm today at 561-820-1508 to discuss your options of defense with one of our criminal defense attorneys at once. The sooner we get started on your defense strategy, the more time we have to prepare and acquire evidence, expert witnesses, character witnesses, and eyewitness testimony in your favor.

Resources:

cbsnews.com/news/beranton-whisenant-jr-federal-prosecutor-found-dead-on-florida-beach/

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0900-0999/0921/Sections/0921.141.html

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