Kristian C. Brooks-Marlar of Lakeland has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Matthew Ross McCraney, also of Lakeland. Polk County sheriff’s detectives allege that Brooks-Marlar and McCraney got into a fight early last Sunday morning. The two men were apparently at the same party at the time but did not know each other previously.
Authorities say that, during the fight, Brooks-Marlar beat and kicked McCraney even after he fell to the floor. McCraney died from bleeding in his brain, caused by the beating, according to the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office. The sheriff’s office denies that Brooks-Marlar acted in self-defense or was provoked.
Under Florida law, a person is guilty of first-degree murder if he kills someone with the premeditated design to effect that person’s death OR in the perpetration of such crimes as drug trafficking or any of a variety of violent felonies. A first-degree murder conviction carries a possible life sentence or even the death penalty.
In this case, Mr. Brooks-Marlar has been charged with second-degree murder.
A person is guilty of second-degree murder in Florida if he kills someone “by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual”. A conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
A “premeditated design to kill” means that there was a conscious decision to kill. The decision must be present in the accused’s mind at the time the act was committed but doesn’t necessarily require a long thought-process or planning period.
In this case, it appears that prosecutors did not believe there was evidence of such premeditation and chose to forego the first-degree murder charge.