MARY ESTHER, FL (November 6, 2019) – writes that police arrested a 31-year-old man earlier this week in connection with a murder that occurred on July 13, 2019. The suspect was outside of a fast-food restaurant in Okaloosa County when he was taken into custody and charged with murdering a man in Mary Esther at a home located on Blackstone Road.

The reports indicated that the suspect shot the victim three times after confronting him at the house. A witness to the murder said that both the suspect and the victim were smoking methamphetamine prior to the altercation. The witness also said that the suspect saw the victim speaking to the suspect’s girlfriend. The suspect made threats regarding the interaction between the victim and the suspect’s girlfriend. A short while later, the witness heard a fight followed by a woman screaming and then multiple gunshots.

Witnesses found the victim on the floor requesting help. The suspect had a gunshot wound to his arm, and a witness transported him to the hospital.

Police charged the suspect with first-degree murder.

Murder Charges in Florida

Murder is the most serious crime a person can commit based on Florida law. When one person causes the death of another individual, law enforcement officers and prosecutors will work to to hold the suspect accountable and will seek harsh and severe penalties.

The death penalty was at one point declared unconstitutional in the state, but in 2016, Florida changed its statute and reinstated the death penalty so that it applies only in the most severe and heinous murder cases. Even if the state does not seek, or does not succeed in getting the defendant sentenced to death, the sentencing for murder will include long stretches of time behind bars and possibly life in prison.

Murder is categorized by degrees, with first-degree murder being the most severe, followed by second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and then DUI manslaughter. First-degree murder involves either premeditated crimes or murders that are committed during the commission of another felony. Second-degree murders are those in which an individual kills another with a depraved mind indicating an indifference towards human life. Third-degree murders are often crimes of passion which are not planned but happen in the heat of an altercation, and DUI manslaughter involves a person killing another while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

First-degree murder cases involving premeditation can lead to the harshest penalties of all. Any of these crimes must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is essential for a suspect to have experienced legal counsel to defend against murder charges. A lawyer can determine what defenses may apply in any given case. Defenses may include self-defense, stand your ground laws, or factual disputes. In some cases, the defense may be about lessening the degree of the crime by indicating that the crime was not premeditated or planned, or that the defendant did not have the requisite state of mind to commit the crime.