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Palm Beach County jury acquits man of attempted murder charges

Palm Beach County prosecutors attempted to convict a 34-year-old man on arson and first-degree attempted murder charges following an incident in August of last year. His former girlfriend, aged 45, claimed he beat her and barricaded her inside a burning apartment near Lake Worth on Coconut Road. In court, the jury was not convinced of these felony charges, however. During closing remarks, the defense noted that there was a lack of evidence to prove the girlfriend's claims.

The defense used a strategy that undermined the girlfriend's credibility throughout the trial. To make this point, the defense highlighted the girlfriend's claim that she stayed in the hospital for seven days because of the incident. Records from JFK Medical Center showed that she had in fact only stayed overnight.

The defense also called upon a former deputy fire marshal from Philadelphia who now owns a consulting firm. He disputed the claim made by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue investigators that the fire was the result of arson. He claimed that investigators mishandled evidence and could not prove anyone set the fire intentionally; he added that the fire was also only small and easily distinguished.

Investigators did admit that crews extinguished the fire quickly, but they maintained that it had been caused by arson because there had been proof of three separate fires within the apartment. However, investigators never found the lighter the man was alleged to have used to set the fires, and a candle was found after crews extinguished the fire.

The jury in this case came to a verdict after only two hours of deliberation. The deciding factor in their decision is unknown, but it is certain that those facing felony charges should not assume that being charged automatically means you will be convicted of the crime. Anyone charged with a criminal offense should be fully aware of their legal rights and options available to them, including an independent criminal defense attorney to mount an effective defense against any allegations.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Jury acquits man on arson, attempted murder charges," Marc Freeman, Sept. 27, 2012

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