We’ve been following the case of one Jupiter man who was accused of first-degree murder and a hate crime as his defense attorneys alleged that another young man involved with the fatal attack of a Guatemalan man was responsible for delivering the killing blow. This case is instructive for a number of reasons, and as the jury came in with a verdict of “guilty” against the defendant, we can all take a look at how that verdict was reached and learn from that.
The defense alleged that the defendant was with a group of boys who were walking the streets of Jupiter, Florida when they were invited to hang out with a group of Guatemalans. At some point, one of Guatemalans who had been drinking picked a fight with the defendant and company. The defendant defended himself with an ax he just happened to have with him, but the man was actually killed by another individual who pummeled the victim to death with a rock.
Let’s say we believe the defendant’s story. Does it matter?
Felony Murder and This Case
Clearly, the jury didn’t believe what the defendant had to offer as an alibi. The question is: what effect would it have had if they did?
The felony murder doctrine states that an individual, in the commission of a felony, can be convicted of first-degree murder if, in the act of committing the felony, an individual dies. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the death was intentional or even committed by the individual. It just had to happen.
In this case, the prosecution would only need to prove that a felony was taking place.
In this case, the judge presiding over the defendant’s murder trial allowed evidence into the record that one member of this group and company attempted to rob another Guatemalan earlier that night. This backed up the prosecution’s position that the boys were scouring the street for Guatemalans to rob.
While robbery itself is not (necessarily) a felony, robbery with the use of a deadly weapon (like an ax) most assuredly is.
So even if we believe that this second individual was responsible for the victim’s death, that still does not absolve the defendant of first-degree murder.
Could the Verdict be Overturned on Appeal?
If we believe that the second individual, the defendant, and the others were “invited” to hang out with the Guatemalans, even though they appeared to be searching the streets for Guatemalans to rob with weapons, and were attacked in the process, that could change things completely.
In fact, the defense is seeking to appeal the conviction on the grounds that evidence of a prior attack that evening was unlawfully allowed into the record.
More problematically, jurors asked for transcripts of the defendant’s interaction with the police during which he confessed he lied. When the jurors heard that transcripts were not available and that they would have to listen to a two-hour recording, they came back with a guilty verdict almost immediately.
An appeals judge will have to determine if that qualifies as jury misconduct. If they do, the defendant may walk free.
Have You Been Accused of a Crime in West Palm Beach?
Then you should contact Skier Law Firm, P.A of West Palm Beach. We can handle major felony cases and routine DWI charges. Give us a call and we’ll begin discussing your case today.