Thursday, July 12, 2007

Killer's death sentence reduced to life term in 2001 Okeechobee slaying

Posted at 11:47 a.m.
Updated at 11:49 a.m.
July 12, 2007

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death sentence of a 28-year-old man who killed an Okeechobee man during a 2001 robbery in his home.

The court upheld the conviction of Christopher Jones for the July 17, 2001, killing of Hilario Dominguez, who was shot once in the chest, but threw out the death sentence. Jones will continue to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jones, his girlfriend Ambria Edmonds, his cousin Paul Rosier and another woman all went to Dominguez's house on the day of the killing. Edmonds testified they were planning to rob Dominguez because they knew he sold beer and cigarettes from his home and had cash on him.

At the house, Edmonds said Jones hit Dominguez with a handgun and after the two struggled, Jones shot him. Jones took the stand in his defense and while admitting to going to the house, claimed that he stayed in the car while Rosier shot Dominguez.

Jones was found guilty at trial of first-degree murder and home invasion robbery and the jury voted 7 to 5 to put him to death. Prosecutors argued two aggravating circumstances warranted death — the crime was done for money as part of a robbery and the killing was done to avoid arrest.

While the court agreed robbery was a factor, it said there was not enough evidence to indicate the killing was done to avoid arrest. With that aggravating circumstance gone, the court said there was not enough to warrant death, especially when compared to other similar crimes where life in prison was ordered instead of death.

"We do not diminish the tragic and inexcusable loss of life of the victim, but we must reserve the death penalty for the most egregious of murders," the opinion states.

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