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Capital Felonies

As written on the previous page, a first degree murder charge requires "premeditation". If the prosecution decides to seek the death penalty in a first degree murder case and acquires a conviction, a separate phase of the trial with the same jury and presiding judge will occur within a practical period of time after the conviction is decided. This is where the sentencing phase will take place.

This segment of the trial decides whether the punishment will be life imprisonment with no possibility of parole or death. In a circumstance where any juror or a number of them from the original trial where the conviction was attained cannot be made available to appear during the sentencing phase, the trial judge who is the sentencing authority may call for a special juror or group of jurors as the case may be, to deliberate the obligation of the punishment. The death penalty is permitted under Florida Statute 775.082 for any individual convicted of a capital felony in the state.

As is the case with any charge of a homicide it is essential to retain the best possible counsel to protect an accused's rights and craft a strong defense to challenge all evidence the prosecution may submit at trial. My prior involvement prosecuting homicide cases for the State and defending them against the federal government gives me a definitive advantage now practicing criminal defense law in the tri-county area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

In a capital case, the prosecution may be convinced to seek the death penalty as a proportional sentence for a depraved or egregious killing as well as causes such as the killing of a police officer, judge, serial killings, kidnapping, rape, home invasion, fatalities connected to drug trafficking, as well as other crimes.

Seeking the death penalty is solely at the discretion of the prosecution and may be influenced by public outcry as well as press coverage of a particular case. In the same respect, a death penalty challenge may be taken off the table for the same reasons.

Other aggravating factors that may influence a jury's final decision include the prior record of the defendant; for instance whether he was a member of a street gang and gang related activity led to the killing, the accused had previous murder conviction(s), or the suspect tortured the victim or laid in wait for them, as well as witness tampering in an attempt to silence them or was on probation for a separate felony at the time this new felony charge was committed as well as other circumstances.

Felony murder can also be pursued as a death penalty punishment at the option of the prosecution. However in the event that an accomplice charged with felony murder assists a law enforcement investigation, or the prosecution during trial testimony, the death penalty can be taken off the table based on the defendant's cooperation by assisting police and/or testifying against the actual person responsible for the fatality.  

Sexual Battery (or attempted sexual battery with injury)
This crime will be classified as a capital offense in the State of Florida in cases when the victim of the crime is under the age of twelve years and the individual charged with the crime is an adult; eighteen years of age or older. A conviction for this offense requires the same penalties as a capital murder conviction even if it did not cause the death of the victim. In these types of cases, the victim's testimony is allowed to be heard by a jury without supporting evidence such as DNA or other physical evidence. An individual accused of this crime can be found guilty of this charge exclusively on the statement of the victim as long as the jury considers their testimony to be factual.

Drug trafficking
In a variety of situations the State of Florida can move forward with a capital case that involves drug trafficking, manufacturing or importation of a variety of controlled or illegal substances including opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and an assortment of other narcotics when specified statutory requirements are met.

The State may take this action during the commission of a first degree felony involving a narcotics charge; an individual killed another or in any other way caused the intentional killing of a person with intent. It would also apply if their conduct led to the basis for a non-unavoidable fatal result, or the accused knew that the most likely result of their involvement or commission of the crime would in all cases be the death of another person.

An example of this would be the importation of 300 kilograms of cocaine or more knowing that the likely consequence of this trafficking would be the death of any person. This variable is known as an "amount threshold", assisting the prosecution in the establishment of intent. These thresholds fluctuate in numeric quantity for different types of narcotics.

Adding adulterants during the manufacture of illegal or controlled substances can also be a reason for the death penalty to be sought even if the amount threshold of the primary drug falls under the limit indicated by law. Adulterants are usually similar but cheaper illegal substances that are intentionally added to the primary illegal drug to enhance its street value to the seller. These additives may possibly have comparable effects as the principal illegal substance, but may cause serious reactions in some cases leading to death. Due to this possibility the addition of potentially lethal adulterants to an illegal drug or controlled substance can also be charged as a capital offense and the death penalty may be sought.

Personal Experience
Any case involving a capital felony is complex. Whether the charges originate from the State of Florida or the federal government the importance of hiring a criminal defense attorney with experience in capital cases cannot be excessively overemphasized. All homicide cases must be proved by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt and with the high stakes of a capital case being so punitive an attorney who's handled these types of cases in the past can be the difference between a verdict of the death penalty, life in prison and the prospect of acquittal. The appeals process is also paramount in cases such as these when an error made by the prosecution or the Court can be challenged to change a sentence or have a verdict completely reversed.

My own personal involvement in this area has involved numerous state prosecutions and defenses of homicides as well as the defense of capital federal murder cases.
In one federal case where the death penalty was sought we were able to convince the committee charged with the responsibility of deciding life or death to decline the imposition of the death penalty. In another case in which the government did not agree to this request I cross examined close to seventy witnesses in a highly publicized federal death penalty case.
Finally in a highly publicized reckless homicide case my co-counsel and I were able to present record evidence at trial which ultimately led to the reversal of our client's conviction reversed by litigation through the Court of Appeals. This was a case widely reported by the media where my client's vehicle was struck by a train causing the death of his stepdaughter who was seated in the back of his car.
There is therefore no substitute for experience in cases such as these.

Retaining my services at the earliest point of any capital case investigation or after an arrest has taken place will always result in the best possible outcome by allowing my crafting of a strong defense no matter what the initial evidence may suggest.

If someone close to you or if you yourself are facing capital charges for first degree murder, drug trafficking, or any other allegation that can result in the prosecution charging a capital crime, my law firm can deliver the skillful representation you need.

To reach me by email to describe your individual issue in depth, fill out the contact form with the "Additional Comments" field that can be found by clicking this link. For a quicker response call any of the phone numbers shown at the top of each page of this Website or in the footer section at the bottom. The earlier the contact the better chance I have of returning the best possible outcome by formulating a strong defense challenging all charges alleged.