It’s obvious that a murder charge in Fort Lauderdale is a serious offense. Not only are the allegations that a person has been killed by another, but the consequences could be life in prison or possibly the death penalty in Florida.
That’s why murder must be treated differently. Not only must an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer be hired to defend the client, but prosecutors and judges must keep in mind the rights of the defendant — even more so than in other criminal cases.
This means a statement the defendant gave to police, if he did, should be scrutinized along with the police actions leading up to the conversation. Also, how police collected evidence and what actions they took to find witnesses should also be looked at closely.
In many cases, if a suspect’s constitutional rights are violated, an experienced lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence. If law enforcement acts improperly, such as gaining entrance to a person’s car or house and seizing evidence without probable cause, that evidence can be thrown out of trial.
Or, if at trial, the judge or prosecutor makes comments or takes actions that cause the defendant to suffer bias, it’s possible a new trial can be ordered. That’s what happened in State v. Allen, a Maryland case.
This case stems from an altercation between two friends. Allen was at the house of John Butler one night in 2001. Allen asked Butler to drive him home, but he said no. Allen jingled his keys and threatened to drive himself home, which caused a fight.
In the middle, Allen stabbed Butler repeatedly, took the car and drove off before crashing it soon after. He was arrested and charged with many crimes, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder and armed robbery.
During trial, the judge told jurors that they could find him guilty of first-degree felony murder whether he had gone in with the idea to commit an armed robbery or only considered it after the murder. The man was convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, armed robbery and other charges.
First-degree murder in Florida can be charged if the crime was premeditated or if another felony, such as armed robbery, is committed at the same time. The appeals court ruled that robbery can’t be an “afterthought” in a felony murder case and sent it back for re-trial.
During the second trial, the only issue for jurors to consider was whether the man was guilty of first-degree murder. But a judge once again messed up when telling jurors that the man had already been found guilty of the armed robbery and second-degree murder, which paved the way for them to find him guilty of first-degree murder since that element of the crime was established by the judge.
An appeals court again granted a new trial. Judges make mistakes. But the defendant must always receive the benefit of the doubt. The bottom line is the defendant must have a fair trial in a Fort Lauderdale murder case.
If you are arrested in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.
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Boynton Beach Wife Convicted in Murder-For-Hire Plot Gets House Arrest: September 18, 2011