In a city marked by infamous criminal cases and trials, few cases have gripped Tampa like the case of Richard McTear Junior. As a way of background, he is accused of throwing his three-month-old boy out of a moving car on Interstate 275 in North Tampa near Fowler Avenue back in 2009. We attached a link to a news article regarding the background of the case. Interestingly enough after the drafting of this article, the Defendant’s ex-girlfriend testified in violation of a motion in limine causing a mistrial and the setting of a new court date.
This case is well known and infamous for several reasons. First, very few murders involve the intentional death of a child. Fortunately, this is a rarity, even in a State like Florida, which is known for its weird, wild and wacky criminal cases. Secondly, this case is obviously especially heinous and cruel. In a society marked by rising gun deaths, the thought of a baby being thrown on a busy Interstate still shocks the conscious. Lastly, this case has gotten significant media attention as the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office has decided to seek the death penalty against the defendant. This has several impacts on the case. First, the decision to go after the death penalty against the defendant makes jury selection much more difficult because the panel must be what is called death qualified. That means ultimately they must be able to consider the death penalty as a potential sanction and penalty against the defendant in this case.
Currently, the death penalty is an appropriate sanction under Florida law thus the jurors must be able to consider all legal sanctions in a case, including the death penalty. For example, someone that states during voir dire there’s no way they can sentence someone to death ultimately cannot sit on such a jury because they would by their own admission not be able to follow Florida law. Secondly, the issues with the death penalty make the case much longer because of the reality of a potential sentencing phase. Unlike other sentences in the Florida Criminal Justice System, sentences involving the death penalty require both the judge and the jury to submit their input. Typically, the judge solely decides a sentencing issue. In fact, the Florida standard jury instructions from the Florida Supreme Court include a specific provision in non-death cases: the jury is not to consider sentencing issues in their consideration of a verdict. Lastly, decision to get to the death penalty makes a case like this far more expensive to the taxpayers of Florida. Undoubtedly, if this man is found guilty of this heinous crime, he will have many, many layers of appeals. Many of his appeals will go all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court.
Regardless of your thoughts on this man’s guilt or innocence, this will be an interesting case. The cruelty and heinous nature of this case has attracted significant local attention, but not much national attention. Perhaps the nation is tired of Florida producing strange, odd and outrageous criminal cases or perhaps the nation is still fatigued from the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman trial.
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