Court Proceeding Experience essay

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Murder Trial of Nicholas Lindsey, March 2012

Factual and Procedural Background

On the evening of February 21, 2011, Police Officer David Crawford of the St. Petersburg, Florida police department was fatally shot while investigating a report of a suspicious person or prowler in a residential neighborhood. After a 24-hour search expedition, police arrested and booked 16-year-old Nicolas Lindsey on charges of first-degree murder. Lindsey confessed to the killing in a taped statement to police shortly thereafter.[footnoteRef:-1] [-1:]

Lindsey was arraigned in court the next day, and the judge ordered that he be held in custody without bail. A grand jury which convened the following week indicted Lindsey on first-degree murder of a police officer, whereupon the state Attorney General charged Lindsey as an adult based on the seriousness of the offense and that he was over age 14.

Jury selection began on March 19, 2012 and the jury heard evidence for only three days, returning a verdict of guilty on March 23, 2012. However, after just three days of hearing evidence on March 23, 2012, the jury returned a verdict of guilty and Lindsey was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (commonly referred to as LWOP).

Legal Issues

1. Charging Lindsey, a juvenile, with murder, as an adult

Around the late 1800s and early 1900s, every state throughout the country created separate juvenile justice systems designed to protect and rehabilitate juvenile offenders. The government came to view its duty as not only to protect public safety from crime, but also to intervene and serve as the guardian of the children involved. In the adversarial adult criminal system, the state's role is to prosecute and punish the offender, whereas the juvenile court was established with a more benevolent, rehabilitative mission. The latter is designed to be flexible and to tailor to a juvenile's individual needs, recognizing that children are more malleable than adults. However, over the past 20 years, states have moved back in the direction of treating juvenile offenders as adults. Most states now have legislation allowing juveniles over age 14 to be charged in the adult criminal justice system based on the severity of the offense, among other factors.

In this case, Lindsey was charged with first degree murder, as an adult, pursuant to one of these provisions in Florida based on the seriousness of the killing of a police officer. The theory of the Florida Attorney General In Florida, murder is a capital felony, meaning it is punishable by death. However, the Supreme Court abolished capital punishment for juvenile offenders. Since Lindsey was under 18 when he committed the charged murder, he was not eligible to receive the death penalty. He was, however, eligible for life in prison without the possibility of parole.[footnoteRef:0] [0: Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)]

To sustain a conviction of first-degree murder in Florida, the government must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed an unlawful killing of a human being with premeditation. Premeditation means that the killing occurs after the defendant consciously decides to do so. The decision to kill must be present at the time of the killing. The law does not establish a fixed amount of time in which premeditation must occur. Premeditation can be only a couple of seconds. But it must be enough time for the defendant to consciously reflect upon the killing.[footnoteRef:1] Manslaughter is a heat of passion killing, with adequate provocation, and without premeditation. The question of whether a defendant killed with premeditation is a question of fact for a jury to determine. Alternatively, under the felony-murder rule, a defendant has also committed murder if a killing occurs in the course of committing any felony. [1: Fl. Stat. Title XLVI, Chapter 782.04]

In the instant trial, the prosecutor's theory of guilt was that Lindsey harbored the requisite premeditation for a first-degree murder conviction. Moreover, the prosecution argued that even if the jury found insufficient evidence of premeditation, the killing occurred during or shortly after the commission of a felony, - a car burglary, and thus, first-degree murder still occurred. In his opening statement, the prosecutor emphasized the heinous circumstances and gory details of the…[continue]

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