Death Penalty Out in Longest-Running U.S. Murder Case

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For eight years, Florida prosecutors said they wanted to send Michael Keetley to death row. This week, they changed their minds. Prosecutor Jay Pruner announced that the state would no longer seek a death sentence in the longest-running U.S. murder case that has yet to see trial, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Keetley, 48, who has been jailed for nearly 3,000 days, appeared perplexed at the news as he heard the news in court. A former ice cream truck driver, Keetley is accused of murdering Juan and Sergio Guitron and wounding four other men in a 2010 shooting spree. If a jury finds him guilty, Keetley will now face an automatic sentence of life in prison.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has decided against pursuing the death penalty in several of the cases he inherited when he became top prosecutor two years ago. He has continued to seek death in others. The Keetley case has spanned a period of dramatic changes to Florida’s system of capital punishment that have made it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain death sentences. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state’s death penalty procedures were unconstitutional because the law did not require a jury to be unanimous in recommending a punishment. The law was re-written to require a unanimous jury. Keetley has been charged with the fatal shootings since December 2010. Witnesses told investigators that he had been on a mission to find the people who had robbed his ice cream truck and shot him. Prosecutors believe he mistakenly targeted the Guitron brothers and their friends.

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