Prosecutors said Monday they will not seek the death penalty against four people charged with murdering Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor because the accused shooter was a minor when the crime was committed.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that people cannot be executed for crimes committed when they’re under 18, and it’s a well established legal principle that others involved in the same case as a minor cannot face the ultimate penalty if they are less directly responsible.
Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin filed notice Friday that the death penalty will be waived. That means the four suspects could get a maximum of life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder after a trial scheduled to begin Aug. 25.
Eric Rivera Jr., who turned 18 last month, was 17 at the time police say he shot Taylor during a botched robbery at the Pro Bowl safety’s Miami-area home in November. Taylor, 24, died of massive blood loss after he was shot in the upper leg.
The Taylor family accepted prosecutor’s explanation for the move, a family spokesman said.
“All the co-defendants can’t be subject to the death penalty if the [alleged] shooter is not,” said Richard Sharpstein, a lawyer who has acted as spokesman for the Taylor family. “There are no issues of discretion here. There’s no choice.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are barred from discussing the case with reporters under a gag order. But Hunte’s attorney, Michael Hornung, said in a telephone interview that prosecutors would have had to prove a conspiracy aimed at killing Taylor in order to seek death for the three adults.
“I’m not shocked or surprised they are not going forward with the death penalty,” Hornung said. “That would have been challenging legally.”
Taylor was an All-American at the University of Miami and was a member of the Hurricanes’ national championship team in 2001. He was selected with the fifth overall pick of the 2004 draft by the Redskins and made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2007.