JUPITER, Fla. – One of the suspects accused in the Jupiter triple homicide from Super Bowl Sunday night last year
is asking a Palm Beach County judge to declare Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional.
Prosecutors have already announced they intend to seek the death penalty against
Christopher Vasata who faces three counts of first degree murder.
Vasata was the first suspect arrested and charged with the murders of Sean Henry, 26, Brandi El-Salhy, 24, and 20-year-old Kelli Doherty. All three were gunned down at a 2017 Super Bowl party on Mohawk Street in Jupiter.
Vasata was also injured in the shooting, and reportedly confessed to the killings from his hospital bed, but later denied his responsibility.
Early on, prosecutors filed their notice of intent to seek the death penalty.
Now, his defense attorney has filed a motion asking the judge to declare Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional.
“Basically the defense is saying the law is over broad, that not every murder that occurs is appropriate for the ultimate sanction of death,” said defense attorney Gregg Lerman, who has tried several death penalty cases himself.
He says while it’s unlikely, if a judge does rule in Vasata’s favor, it could set a precedent eliminating the death penalty at least in Palm Beach County and possibly in the state.
“You never know. We’ve all been surprised, but I more fully expect this to be setting up for the future than for the now,” said Lerman.
Lerman says what’s likely happening is that the defense is filing it now so that if Vasata is convicted and sentenced to death, they have the ability to appeal it down the line.
“Is it a Hail Mary? Sure. Maybe you get that judge that does stand up and do what we believe is the right thing, but you have to preserve the record for the future. “
Lerman says it is fairly rare for some to get the death penalty in Palm Beach County. There are also recent changes to the law require a 12 person jury to decide on death unanimously.
The second suspect arrested in this case, Marcus Steward, is also facing the death penalty.