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Florida woman faces trial in lottery winner homicide

Recently, a trial began for the highly-publicized homicide of a Florida man, who police say was killed over a $3.5 million lottery payout. Authorities accuse the man's female friend of committing the crime, claiming she was after the man's fortune.

The man was characterized by police as a drug addict and occasional thief until he had his stroke of good fortune, which netted him a total of $17 million. After he received his winnings, however, family members and acquaintances hounded him, each begging for a piece of his fortune. Within just two years, he was down to $3.5 million.

Authorities say this is when he met the accused woman. She told the man she was interested in writing a book about his life. According to prosecutors, however, the woman had befriended the lotto winner in a scheme to steal his remaining fortune. The man went missing after he signed his assets over the woman; police now accuse her of killing him.

It remains to be seen whether she will be found innocent or guilty. But the media coverage alone could present a problem for her defense.

In this well-publicized story, authorities have characterized the woman as a sort of 'black widow', who deceived the man in a scheme to steal his fortune. However, this sort of simple caricaturing does an injustice to those who are accused of crimes, as it glosses over possible mitigating evidence and leads audiences to jump to conclusions. Until a verdict is returned, all suspects are considered innocent, and those involved in the trial should keep an open mind for new information. In cases such as this, defense attorneys can help to ensure that the rights of the defendant are not violated during the proceedings, allowing those accused of crimes to receive a fair trial.

Source: Fox News, "Trial begins for Florida woman accused of murdering lottery winner," Phil Keating, Nov. 28, 2012

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