No Death Penalty in Taylor Case

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The four men charged with murder in the death of Washington Redskins star safety Sean Taylor will not face the death penalty, although prosecutors will seek life sentences without parole, according to Richard Sharpstein, a Florida lawyer who is spokesperson for Taylor's family.

Sharpstein said the move by prosecutors, reported yesterday by the Fort Myers News Press and Naples Daily News, came as no surprise to the Taylors because of stipulations in Florida law that govern the ability to pursue capital punishment.

Sharpstein called the decision "a legal forgone conclusion," and said Taylor's father, Pedro, supports those prosecuting the case. Jason Scott Mitchell, 20, Eric Rivera Jr., 18, Venjah K. Hunte, 20, and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 19, are charged with first-degree murder in the killing. Florida law prohibits the death penalty in instances in which a juvenile was the shooter, even if the co-defendants are not minors, Sharpstein said, and Rivera, the alleged shooter, was 17 at the time of the shooting.

Hunte's attorney, Michael Hornung, told the Naples Daily News that he received documentation from Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin on Friday that the death penalty was no longer under consideration. Sharpstein said Taylor's family also learned recently of the development.

Taylor was shot in an artery in his upper leg after defending his family during a robbery Nov. 26 at his property in Miami, dying one day later from severe blood loss. Pedro Taylor, the longtime police chief in Florida City, is eager to help the prosecution, Sharpstein said, with trial set to begin Aug. 25.

"He was a police officer for 25 years and a police chief, he certainly understands and accepts the law," Sharpstein said. "And the law is the way it is. So they are facing life without parole, and he'll live with what the law provides as the maximum punishment."

A first-degree murder conviction in Florida automatically carries a penalty of life in prison, with the judge having no power to alter that mandatory sentence.

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