The story of Dwaine Merchant's murder trial, or trials it should be said, is a complicated one. It begins with an arrest after he was accused of fatally shooting a man in 2007, allegedly motivated by romantic scorn. It would take six years for his trial to begin in the summer of 2013.
Miami Criminal Defense Attorney A. Antonio Tomas took up the defense of Mr. Merchant, and it seemed that an acquittal of all charges was sure to be the conclusion. While the jury was deliberating, the judge declared that it had been a mistrial after it was discovered that two jurors were brother and sister to one another. The judge felt that it could have been possible that the siblings discussed evidence of the trial privately without the knowledge of other jurors, potentially skewing their beliefs and the outcome of the case. It should be noted that the brother was dismissed before deliberations began and before it was discovered that his sister remained within deliberations; furthermore, there were no inquiries as to whether or not they had privately discussed matters before a mistrial was declared.
When the second trial began, the state's prosecution had been granted a significant advantage by the "do over". In the end, Attorney Tomas was able to secure an acquittal for one charge of attempted first-degree murder but a murder conviction was granted on a separate charge. In the end, Mr. Merchant was sentenced to life in prison, and the court had an air of wrongdoing about it.
Double Jeopardy and Filing for an Appeal
Being tried for the same exact crime more than once is double jeopardy, one of the most egregious violations of the criminal justice systems, and yet this was exactly what had happened to Mr. Merchant. An appeal was filed and placed in the trusted hands of an appellate counsel, whom Attorney Tomas assisted. The appeal was moved up to the United States Third District Court of Appeals, citing that double jeopardy had undoubtedly occurred, and due to suspiciously unclear grounds. The appellate court ultimately agreed with this argument and threw out the murder conviction.
It is presently unclear when Mr. Merchant will be released from prison now that his conviction has been removed. The Attorney General of Florida is currently seeking to appeal this decision to Florida's Supreme Court. It is unknown if the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case.
Be sure to read a full article published by the Miami Herald (seen here) for more information on this story. For more information regarding Miami Criminal Defense Attorney A. Antonio Tomas, feel free to
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