ORLANDO, Fla. - It was a senseless crime that stunned central Florida: the brutal killings of six people ranging in age from 34 to just 17, and a dog. This week, two of the men convicted of the crime are set for a hearing to determine whether they will face the death penalty.
Sheriff Ben Johnson, Volusia County's then-sheriff, described the massacre. "A lot of trauma, a lot of blood splatter. Just a very, very brutal crime."
The year was 2004, and the crime came to be known as the "XBOX murders." Four men, Troy Victorino, Jerone Hunter, Michael Salas, and Robert Cannon were all convicted of the grisly killings. Deputies say they used bats and knives to kill the six roommates who shared the house. All because one of them allegedly took things from Victorino, including an XBOX game console.
Albert Yonfa, a partner at Orlando law firm Nejame Law, says the crime was shocking. "The heinousness of this crime is just horrific what these individuals were convicted of."
Salas and Cannon were sentenced to life in prison. Victorino, the ringleader, and Hunter were sentenced to death, but the jury's decisions at the time were not unanimous. A later change to state law decided that Florida’s death penalty had to be unanimous, so their sentences switched to life in prison.
"The US Supreme Court decided in Hurst v. Florida that Florida sentencing statute was unconstitutional because it only required a majority as opposed to unanimous," Yonfa said, "what the US Supreme Court said was that violated the 6th Amendment."
Now, with a *new* change in state law, there will be a *new* sentencing hearing set for Tuesday to see whether Victorino and Hunter will return to death row. "So if the jury recommends 8-4 for death, that's taken as a 12-0 for death. If the jury decides for life in prison as opposed to death, the judge has to impose life," Yonfa explained.
If the jury votes for death either unanimously or in a majority decision, though, Yonfa says there may still be years of appeals and further hearings to come.