The murder rate is high in Jacksonville and when people are arrested for homicide, the state attorney’s office has a decision to make. They have the very powerful decision of whether or not to seek the death penalty. If the state attorney decides to seek the death penalty, a “death qualified” lawyer must represent the accused. These cases are extremely expensive and the families of the accused generally cannot afford the representation. The public defender’s office is appointed to these cases and in the event there is a conflict, there are other criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville who are appointed.
The state of Florida has set minimum standards criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville and all of Florida must have in these cases. A capital case is a 1st degree murder case where the state is seeking death. Jacksonville has a list of death qualified criminal attorneys who accept court appointments. The lead lawyer in these cases must be a member of the Florida Bar, has at least 5 years criminal law trial experience, has been lead counsel in at least 9 serious and complex jury trials, sat as co-counsel in at least 2 death penalty cases, has been lead counsel in at least 3 murder cases.
The Jacksonville defense attorney must also be familiar with the procedures of Jacksonville courts, is familiar with using and questioning expert witnesses, has attended 12 hours of continuing legal education focused on defending death cases, and must demonstrate competence in these cases.