VERO BEACH – After less than four hours of deliberation, the jury tasked with sentencing convicted killer Michael David Jones could not reach a unanimous decision to condemn Jones to death.
Because a unanimous verdict for the death penalty is required by Florida law, Jones will instead serve a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jones, 37, was convicted on Oct. 22 of premeditated first-degree murder for the June 20, 2014 death of his girlfriend, 26-year-old Diana Duve by manual strangulation.
Duve, an oncology nurse at Sebastian River Medical Center and Indian River Charter High School graduate, left behind her parents, grandparents, relatives and friends who showed up each day of the murder trial and the week-long sentencing phase.
After the verdict was broadcast in court, there was a short break while the jury was dismissed. Then friends and family of Duve were given the opportunity to speak about the sentence.
VERO BEACH – The jury deciding the sentence for convicted killer Michael David Jones was sent to deliberate just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Indian River County Courthouse.
Before the 12-person panel is the dilemma of whether to send Jones to Florida’s death row until his eventual execution, or to state prison for the rest of his natural life with no possibility of parole as punishment for the June 2014 death of Diana Duve.
To arrive at that weighty verdict the jury must decide if any or all of the state’s three alleged “aggravating factors” were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If at least one aggravator was proven the jury can then consider applying the death penalty.
To offset the aggravators, the defense team has provided the jury with 45 “mitigating factors” which must be proven by the greater weight of the evidence — a lesser burden of proof. Factors which the defense argued over the past week include Jones’ childhood mental and physical abuse, brain damage, the fact that Jones was in chronic pain and that his parents were influenced by a non-mainstream religion called The Way International.
Those factors and 40 other things, the defense says, help explain the the life conditions which led up to June 20, 2014 when he killed Duve, who had been his romantic partner on and off for about four months.
Three jury alternates were dismissed before deliberations, Judge Dan Vaughn thanking them for going beyond their civic duty serving on both the guilt phase of the trial in October, and the sentencing but not getting to participate in either of the verdicts.
Jurors were not permitted to take any cell phones or other electronics into the jury deliberation room. Lunch was ordered in at the courthouse for them as closing statements ran over their typical lunch break time.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense, as well as Duve’s family members and friends remain closeby because once a verdict on the sentence has been reached, it will shortly thereafter be publicly announced in open court.
The current proceedings against Jones began in late September when the first batch of what would become 200 potential jurors was summoned to complete the jury selection questionnaire. It took three weeks to empanel a jury for the trial, which resulted in an Oct. 22 conviction on the charge of first-degree premeditated murder. The sentencing phase began on Nov. 13 and consisted of mostly tedious technical testimony by nine expert medical witnesses.