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BREAKING: Joshua McClellan sentenced to life after jury's 10-2 recommendation for death
Today, a Lake County trial court sentenced to McClellan to life in prison without parole, departing from the jury's recommendation for death.
On September 1, a Lake County jury recommended by a vote of 10-2 that Joshua McClellan be sentenced to death for crimes that occurred in 2017 when he was 19 years old, to which he pleaded guilty. (TFDP covered that here.)
Under Florida’s 2023 capital sentencing statute, if the jury recommends a sentence of death by at least a vote of 8-4, “the court, after considering each aggravating factor found by the jury and all mitigating circumstances, may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or a sentence of death. The court may consider only an aggravating factor that was unanimously found to exist by the jury.” If the court deviates from the jury’s recommendation, it “must include in its written order the reasons for not accepting the jury’s recommended sentence, if applicable.”
Today, the trial court sentenced McClellan to life in prison without parole (LWOP), overriding the jury’s recommendation for death.
The jury found that all five aggravating factors presented by the State (robbery, avoiding arrest, pecuniary gain, CCP, and age) were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the trial court found only two aggravating factors: robbery and age of the victim. The trial court determined that the State did not prove the CCP or avoid arrest aggravating factors. For CCP, the court found that “the murder occurred at the spur of the moment and little planning went into it . . . .”
As to mitigating circumstances, the court found:1
no significant history of prior criminal activity (some weight);
the defendant’s age at the time of the crime (great weight);
the defendant’s dysfunctional family (some weight);
the defendant spent time in foster care (slight weight);
the defendant was emotionally deprived as a child (slight weight);
the defendant experienced childhood trauma (some weight);
the defendant’s remorse (slight weight);
the defendant grew up impoverished (some weight);
the defendant’s age and immaturity (great weight);
the defendant’s brain abnormalities (some weight);
the defendant’s mental or emotional disturbance (some weight);
the defendant’s good courtroom behavior (slight weight);
the defendant’s substance use (some weight);
the defendant’s lack of role models (slight weight);
the defendant’s difficulty making friends (some weight);
the defendant’s mother was incarcerated during his childhood (slight weight); and
the defendant enrolled in ESE classes (some weight).
As a result, the trial court concluded death was not an appropriate punishment, writing:
The full Sentencing Order can be downloaded here.
TFDP Prior Coverage of McClellan’s Case
Some mitigating circumstances are redacted and, therefore, not available.