No Death Penalty in Amato Case
A high profile murder case in Florida came to an end recently, as a man who was found guilty of First-Degree Murder received a sentence of life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty. According to an August 15, 2019 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, jurors need just three hours to deliberate on the proper punishment for Grant Amato. He was convicted in late July for shooting his parents and brother in a dispute over money. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, arguing that it was deserved because of the horrific nature of the crimes, the cold-blooded premeditation by the defendant, and his lack of remorse. Obviously, jurors didn’t agree with prosecutors by returning a prison sentence.
However, the proceedings are interesting because they demonstrate the two-part process in a death penalty case. If you’ve been charged, you’ll need a skilled Florida homicide defense attorney to represent you throughout the criminal process.
How a Capital Case Works in Florida: There are two types of “capital” crimes in Florida, which are defined as offenses where the death penalty is a possible punishment.
- Premeditated Murder, which is the killing of another person according to a plan or scheme that was developed in advance of the crime; and,
- Felony Murder, where the defendant kills someone during the commission of a designated felony – regardless of whether the death was intentional.
For either form of homicide, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. In a capital case, there are 12 members of the jury who will decide guilty versus non-guilty, as opposed to six in other criminal cases. If the jurors reach a guilty verdict (or the defendant pleads guilty), the case moves to the penalty phase.
Overview of the Penalty Phase: There are only two potential sentences for a person who’s been convicted of First-Degree Murder: Life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Once guilt has been determined, the prosecutor will make the decision on whether to seek the death penalty. If the prosecution waives, the sentence is an automatic life in prison.
When the prosecutor does elect to pursue a death sentence, there’s a separate hearing before the same jury that was impaneled for the trial. The State can present a wide range of evidence regarding the crime, as well as aggravating or mitigating factors. The defendant is also allowed the opportunity to address the jury. At the conclusion of the hearing, the jurors will make a determination on the death penalty. However, the finding is nothing more than a recommendation to the court. A judge can still decide against imposing a death sentence.
A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Provide Key Legal Support
It can be challenging to get 12 members of a jury to agree to the death penalty, which is why retaining experienced legal counsel is necessary to obtain the best possible outcome during sentencing. To learn more about capital cases in Florida, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik in Fort Lauderdale. We can set up a no-cost, confidential consultation to review your circumstances and explain the details.