Attorneys Ask for Death Penalty Reversal for Marlin Joseph

October 12, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

A Rare Sentence

On November 19, 2020, Marlin Joseph became the first person in Palm Beach County to be sentenced to death in 18 years. The case resulted in a wave of shock throughout the area, as prosecutors have sought to impose the death penalty 112 times since 2010, with Joseph being the only one sent to death row. Joseph, who was 29 years old at the time he was sentenced, was found guilty of fatally shooting his mother’s girlfriend, Kaladaa Crowell, and her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett. His sentence was unusual as “it went against the downward trend of prosecutors even seeking the death penalty against the accused in the Palm Beach County.”  Historically, two people have received capital punishment in Palm Beach County, with eight people currently sitting on death row. The death penalty is currently authorized in twenty-seven states, with Florida ranking as the state with the fourth-highest number of executions right behind Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma. 

Florida’s Death Penalty Law

Florida’s death penalty law is codified under Section 921.141 of the Florida Statutes. The statute requires that the jury be presented evidence regarding aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances in order to determine if the state has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of at least one aggravating factor. The statute includes a long list of aggravating factors, including but not limited to whether the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, or whether it was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner.

If you would like to read more about the history of the death penalty in Florida and what the sentence means for capital defendants, you can do so here.

Conflicting Arguments 

Defense attorneys for Joseph argued that the murders did not meet the standard of being heinous, atrocious, or cruel under the statute, and because this factor played a key role in convicting Joseph, his murder convictions, as well as his death sentence, should be thrown out and a new trial should be ordered. However, prosecutors are strongly opposed to this stance, stating that the way Joseph committed the murders did meet the standard. Joseph, who was agitated at Kyra’s attitude, told her he would give her one more chance to improve her behavior. Upon learning that Kyra and his eight-year-old daughter had gotten into an argument, he confronted her mother, Kaladaa, and fatally shot her five times. He then chased down Kyra and fatally shot her, despite being tackled by his brother in the process. Prosecutors also believe the facts that led up to this execution-style murder solidify that Joseph acted in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner.

Furthermore, defense attorneys argue that the trial was ridden with mistakes that prejudiced the client and resulted in an unmerited outcome. These mistakes include that the jury was permitted to hear the fact that Joseph told Kyra he would give her one more chance to fix her attitude. Defense attorneys argued that this was a common warning parents give to their children, and in no way indicated he was going to murder her. Prosecutors also brought a firearms expert witness to the stand to testify. This was a surprise to Joseph’s attorneys, who, in turn, were not able to obtain their own firearms expert witness to testify about the bullets and firearms used in the commission of the crime. However, Chief Justice Charles Canady expressed that the use of such an expert by the defense would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

With both sides making valid arguments, only time will tell how the Court will rule on the matter.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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