In Killer Clown Case, the Defendant Pleads Guilty to Murder

May 3, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

Three decades after Marlene Warren was shot by a “killer clown” with balloons and carnations, the case is finally ending with the defendant pleading guilty.

Sheila Keen-Warren, 59, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for allegedly killing her husband’s first wife. Keen-Warren was originally arrested and charged with first-degree murder in 2017 but has had her trial postponed multiple times due to COVID and arguments over evidence.

Keen-Warren was the longtime suspect in the case, despite maintaining her innocence. She was accused of having an affair with Michael Warren, whom she has now been married to since 2002. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was able to arrest Keen-Warren after new DNA technology indicated a hair found in the clown’s getaway car belonged to her.

Despite the case’s virality due to the strange case details, there was no public notice given for Tuesday’s plea deal. Instead, Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer quietly handled the plea hearing during the lunch break from another trial.

The plea deal Keen-Warren agreed to calls for pleading guilty to second-degree murder and being sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. However, Keen-Warren has already served six years while awaiting trial. Additionally, Florida had a law in 1990 which allowed for less time served if the convicted person had “good behavior.”

That said, Keen-Warren may be released by early next year. If she had not accepted the plea deal, the first-degree murder trial would have started next month. If convicted, Keen-Warren was facing a life sentence. Prosecutors had originally sought the death penalty but then changed it to life in prison.  

Responses to Plea Deal

In an interview with The Associated Press, Greg Rosenfeld, Keen-Warren’s defense attorney, claimed the plea deal was “an incredible win for Ms. Keen-Warren.”

Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg believes Keen-Warren will stay in prison for at least another two years. The prosecutor acknowledged that the case had holes in it, including the 30 years that passed before the case hit the courtroom and the death of key witnesses.

Rosenfeld gave the following statement regarding his client’s plea deal:

“The state of Florida originally wanted to execute her, but now she is going home in 10 months. While it was difficult to plead guilty to a crime she did not commit, it was kind of a no-brainer when there is a guarantee that you will be home with your family.” 

How Plea Deals Work in Florida

A plea deal, or “plea bargain” is an agreement made between the defendant and the prosecution in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges against them in exchange for certain concessions from the prosecution. Florida has varying specifics regarding plea deals, which can differ depending on the county and the case. However, there are general guidelines to follow.

The defendant’s attorney must first negotiate the terms of the plea agreement with the State prosecutor(s). This usually involves the defendant agreeing to plead guilty to one or more charges, often to a lesser charge or degree than the one they were originally charged with. In exchange, the defendant will receive a reduced sentence or other concessions from the prosecution.

If both sides agree to the plea deal’s terms, the defendant must then appear in court to enter a guilty plea on the agreed-upon charges. The judge is then responsible for determining whether to accept the plea deal.

If the judge accepts the plea deal, the defendant shall be sentenced based on the terms of the agreement. If the deal includes an agreed sentence, then the judge shall impose such sentence. If not, the judge determines the sentencing based on Florida’s Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines consider factors such as the severity of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history.

It’s important to note that a plea deal is a voluntary agreement between the defendant and the prosecution. The defendant has the right to reject any plea offer and continue with the process of going to trial. However, if the defendant is found guilty at trial, they may be facing more severe sentencing than they would have under a plea deal.

Before accepting any plea deal, we highly recommend first speaking with a skilled defense attorney in your area.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you love is arrested for a criminal offense, take matters into your own hands by hiring a defense attorney in Tallahassee, FL. Working with an experienced attorney has benefits such as having a knowledgeable expert readily available to answer any legal questions and having someone on your side to fight for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience representing Florida citizens who are accused of criminal offenses.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today and speak with one of our representatives regarding your case. Our firm offers a free consultation by calling (850) 681-7777 or leaving us an online message. With Pumphrey Law Firm, we promise to provide top-quality defense while ensuring all your rights are protected.

Written by Karissa Key

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