Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two recent domestic murders in Fort Myers: Will the state seek the Death Penalty?

The two recent homicides in Lee County - one involving the shooting death of a woman by her husband, Zacarias Izquierdo, and the other involving the slashing of a three month old baby allegedly by the grandfather, Manuel DeJesus Rosales - are generating community outrage. And understandably so. Izquierdo is accused of shooting his wife with a rifle and then tying her body to the underside of his vehicle and dragging the bloody corpse across the street and leaving the car there with the body still tied on. Rosales is accused, on the day a restraining order expired, of slashing his daughter's throat and then, while she watched, slashing the throat of his three month old grandchild, who he referred to as "your bastard." Rosales and Izquierdo are both charged with first degree murder, and Rosales has an additional charge of attempted first degree murder. The question is will the state take these cases to the grand jury and seek indictments for first degree murder, and thus put the death penalty on the table?

As I have said many times, the death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst. Media coverage tends to report on the sensational aggravating facts of the crime, but very rarely reports on mitigating circumstances, and even when that does happen, it occurs only after the start of the penalty phase of a capital trial. The public would generally view every murder as especially heinous or cruel, and, without the benefit of seeing how different murder cases are charged and plea bargained, would likely view almost every one as an aggravated homicide.

The state will have to evaluate the case in light of the aggravating circumstances found in Florida Statute 921.141, and without the benefit of knowing much about either defendant's background or life history. This is in contrast to the federal system, where the defense gets an initial forty five (45)days to prepare and present a mitigation package to the government before a decision is made on the death penalty.

Nevertheless,in Rosales' case, there are two victims, the death was by knife wound, the daughter appreciated her pending death, and possibly that of her baby's, and a child under 12 was killed. In addition, it occurred right after the restraining order was over. The state therefore may argue (1)felony murder (2)especially heinous, atrocious and cruel (3)prior violent felony (contemporaneous attempted murder) (4) cold calculated and premeditated (5) victim in familial position.

I anticipate the state will seek death on the Rosales case. The Izquierdo case is an open question.

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