Florida Court Vacates Inconsistent Verdicts in a Criminal Case

It is not uncommon for people to be charged with multiple crimes. While the judge or jury determining guilt in a criminal matter has the right to find a defendant committed one crime but not the other, the verdicts must be consistent. In other words, if one verdict negates the elements needed to convict the defendant of another charge, the verdicts will be deemed inconsistent and most likely will be reversed, as shown in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was charged with felony murder and other crimes. If you are accused of committing a violent offense, it is in your best interest to talk to a St. Petersburg violent crime defense lawyer about your options for seeking a just result.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant with robbery and first-degree felony murder. The state asserted that the defendant killed the victim while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate a robbery and that he attempted to rob the victim with a firearm. Additionally, in both counts, the state alleged that the defendant had and discharged a gun, causing the victim’s death.

It is reported that following a trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of the first-degree felony murder charge and specifically found that he had and discharged a firearm during the commission of the crime, causing great bodily harm or death. The jury found the defendant not guilty of attempted robbery, however. As such, the defendant moved for arrest of judgment based on an inconsistent verdict. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Inconsistent Verdicts in Criminal Cases

The Florida appellate courts review inconsistent verdict claims de novo. As factually inconsistent verdicts arise out of a jury’s authority to acquit, they are permitted under Florida law; legally inconsistent verdicts, though, are not. The court explained that a verdict is legally inconsistent if a finding of not guilty on one charge negates one or more necessary elements for a conviction on another charge.

In the subject case, the state conceded that the verdicts returned by the jury were truly inconsistent because by finding the defendant not guilty of the attempted robbery charge, they essentially acquitted him of the necessary element of a felony for the felony murder count. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s first-degree felony murder conviction and remanded the matter for the trial court to adjudicate him guilty of a lesser included offense.

Talk to a Trusted Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

The prosecution must prove a defendant committed each of the crimes they are charged with, and in some instances, a not guilty verdict for one charge will necessitate the same verdict for another. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your possible defenses as soon as possible. The trusted St. Petersburg criminal defenseattorneys of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can reach us at 727-897-5413 or through the form online to set up a conference.

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