Tag Archives: jury instructions

Michael Spiegel Convicted in Fort Myers Beach marina Double Homicide

Michael Spiegel Mug Shot

Michael Spiegel Mug Shot

There was never any doubt that he did it, he was apprehended shortly after the crime splattered with the victims’ blood. However, Michael Spiegel’s defense at trial was that he was not sane at the time of the killings. The jury found him guilty in just a couple of hours.

Insanity is an affirmative defense, which means the burden is on the Defendant to prove that he was insane at the time. It’s difficult to do, especially when two people are brutally killed. There was evidence of a long history of mental illness, but the jury did not find it sufficient. The State argued that the steps he took demonstrated planning: which is indicative that he understood the nature and wrongness that he undertook. The finding today doesn’t mean that he wasn’t crazy, but that the jury wasn’t convinced that he was so mentally impaired that he did not appreciate what he was doing or that it was wrong.

There is a 25 year minimum mandatory sentence on the firearm charge. Due to his age, Mr. Spiegel will almost certainly die in prison, even if the judge doesn’t give him a life sentence.

You can read the standard Florida jury instruction on Insanity here.

Eric Rivera Jury Still Deliberating Sean Taylor Murder Charges

Eric Rivera on Monday

Eric Rivera on Monday

The jury only spent about an hour deliberating before breaking for the night last night, and have been back at it this morning. They have just asked a question, and its an interesting one about the Principal Theory. According to @patriciamazzei of the Miami Herald, who is live tweeting the Rivera trial today, they asked if both elements of principal theory must be proven. Perhaps they are having trouble finding one of the elements. Most questions don’t sound good for the defense, but this one certainly does. That’s far from meaning he’s about to walk, but it is a positive sign that the jury is struggling with something. Perhaps they aren’t convinced he’s the shooter, and are trying to determine if the principal theory applies.

Principal theory applies to anyone who knowingly aids, abets, or in any way encourages a crime to occur. Both elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt for it to apply. The elements are printed below in the standard jury instruction. I won’t be around this afternoon, so I’m afraid my updates will be slow coming. The jury has ordered lunch, so they have a while left to deliberate.


§ 777.011, Fla.Stat.

            If the defendant helped another person or persons [commit] [attempt to commit] a crime, the defendant is a principal and must be treated as if [he] [she] had done all the things the other person or persons did if:


1.         the defendant had a conscious intent that the criminal act be done and


2.         the defendant did some act or said some word which was intended to and which did incite, cause, encourage, assist, or advise the other person or persons to actually [commit] [attempt to commit] the crime.


To be a principal, the defendant does not have to be present when the crime is [committed] [or] [attempted]. See State v. Dene, 533 So.2d 265 (Fla. 1988).