Sentencing phase begins in Jones murder case

Michael David Jones [Photo: Kaila Jones]

VERO BEACH – After a three-week break, convicted killer Michael David Jones returned to court Wednesday to face the jurors who will decide whether he spends life in prison without parole, or goes to death row for the June 2014 murder of 26-year-old Diana Duve.

After opening arguments by the prosecution and the defense, the first three witnesses took the stand as part of the state’s case to prove aggravating factors were at play in the crime. Jurors must unanimously find that at least one aggravating factor was proven in order to consider the death penalty as a sentence.

Should the state prove one or more aggravating factors, then the defense will present evidence of mitigating factors that might offset the aggravators and sway the jury to vote for life in prison.

The first three witnesses who testified Wednesday were Dr. Roger Mittleman, medical examiner for the 19th Judicial Circuit, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office fingerprint analysis expert Kelly Hale and 30-year probation officer Scott Dolle.

Mittleman testified about forensic evidence presented at trial and described what death by manual strangulation is like for the victim, as the state is aiming to show that Jones’ crime was especially cruel.

Hale testified that Jones’ fingerprints collected at the Indian River County Jail matched the fingerprints taken in connection with an aggravated stalking charge against Jones in Broward County

Dolle’s testimony about supervising Jones’ probation for that stalking charge was interrupted when a fire alarm went off and the entire Indian River County Courthouse was evacuated. Indian River County Fire-Rescue responded and found that there was no fire, but that an air-conditioning unit had overheated and triggered the alarm.

After the alarm was cleared by firefighters, the parties and jurors were permitted back inside the courthouse and Dolle finished his testimony.

He told the jury that Jones had been sentenced in January 2014 to five years probation for the Broward charge. Dolle said Jones violated his probation in June 2014 when Jones was found by police in a Fort Pierce Hampton Inn hotel room while Duve was still missing — her body was discovered the next morning. Jones had traveled outside Indian River County without permission.

Proceedings will resume in Judge Dan Vaughn’s courtroom at 1:30 p.m., with the sentencing expected to last several days.

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