TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An appeals court Wednesday upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a Treasure Coast wealth planner found guilty of strangling his girlfriend.
A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal, in a 15-page ruling, rejected arguments by attorneys for Michael D. Jones that a circuit judge had improperly admitted evidence about an earlier domestic violence incident involving Jones and Diana Duve.
Jones, now 38, was accused of killing Duve in after they left a Vero Beach bar in June 2014. Duve’s body was later found in the trunk of her car in a parking lot in Melbourne.
The appeal focused heavily on the evidence admitted into Jones’ trial about an April 2014 incident that led police to be called to Jones’ home. The evidence included allegations that Jones had choked and threatened Duve during the incident.
“Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence that, two months before the murder, appellant (Jones) strangled the victim and threatened to kill her,” said the ruling, written by Judge Robert Gross and joined by Judges Jonathan Gerber and Mark Klingensmith.
“This evidence was relevant to establish appellant’s motive and premeditated intent. Although this evidence was certainly prejudicial, its probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. The evidence was not a feature of the trial, and the judge instructed the jury that it was to consider this evidence only for limited purposes.”
Jones, who was sentenced to life in prison, is an inmate at Walton Correctional Institution, according to the state Department of Corrections website.