Criminal cases require prosecutors to present evidence in order to obtain a conviction. Evidence generally comes in two varieties: direct and circumstantial. Examples of direct evidence include eyewitnesses to a crime or a ballistics report stating that the defendant’s gun fired the bullet that killed the victim. Circumstantial evidence, by contrast, consists of a fact or set of facts that, if proven, will support the creation of an inference that the matter asserted is true. Florida homicide cases can be proven by using direct or circumstantial evidence. A November 2017 decision analyzed whether there was enough circumstantial evidence to affirm a first-degree murder conviction.
Generally, Florida courts of appeals review convictions from the viewpoint most favorable to the prosecution, such that a jury could find a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. If, however, a murder conviction is predicated on circumstantial evidence, and there isn’t a confession, Florida courts apply an altered standard of review. The conviction should be affirmed if the prosecution failed to provide evidence that the jury can use to rule out all reasonable hypotheses except for guilt.
The court then recounted all of the examples of circumstantial evidence presented at trial. These included testimony that the victim, before going missing, was last seen with the defendant. Also, a neighbor remembered a container adjacent to the defendant’s vehicle prior to the time that the victim disappeared. The victim was later found dead inside a barrel near a canal. In addition, another witness testified that he remembered a barrel in the defendant’s apartment. When the investigation led to the defendant’s home, he was sweating and acted nervous. He also had lacerations on his arm and fingers that indicated some sort of struggle.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly under Florida law (see Carranza v. State, 985 So. 2d 1199 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008)), the defendant’s statements to friends and family of the victim were not consistent with what he told the police. For instance, he told a family member of the victim that the victim left for Jacksonville. He told the police, however, that the victim left without saying where she planned to go. Finally, he told the police another time that she left town with another man.
The court held that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to infer guilt to the exclusion of all other reasonable inferences, which is the standard of review for first-degree murder convictions based entirely on circumstantial evidence. The court, therefore, upheld the defendant’s conviction.
Being arrested for, charged with, or convicted of murder in Clearwater, Florida can put an end to the accused’s future aspirations, desires, and goals. The price is so steep that it makes sense to have the assistance of an experienced homicide defense attorney like Will Hanlon at Hanlon Law. If you would like to discuss your case or the evidence against you, call us at 727-897-5413 or contact us online for an appointment.
More Blog Posts:
Identification of Typo Changes Crime Classification in Florida Defendant’s Conviction, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017
Defendant in Florida Carjacking Case Fails on Double Jeopardy Appeal, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2017