Duval County

Jury recommends life in prison for Johnathan Quiles, man convicted of killing pregnant niece

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — 9/25/23, 5:49 p.m. UPDATE: The jury has recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole for Johnathan Quiles.

Original story below:

Jurors will start discussing Wednesday whether to give the death penalty to a local man found guilty of first-degree murder.

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The state is seeking the death penalty in Johnathan Quiles’ murder case, and the new Florida death penalty law could make it more likely he gets a death sentence.

Quiles was found guilty of all charges, including first-degree murder, in the raping and killing of Iyana Sawyer, who was his 16-year-old niece. She was pregnant when she was killed in December 2018.

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At the time, investigators said Quiles shot and killed Sawyer before leaving her body in a dumpster. Sawyer’s body was never found, but the jury was convinced Quiles killed her.

The new Florida death penalty law now only requires a supermajority, at least 8 out of 12 jurors, to sentence someone to death. It used to require a unanimous jury under the old law.

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The defense issued a motion to apply the old death penalty law to the case since Quiles killed Sawyer before the new law went into effect. That motion was denied by the judge, who said the new law will apply.

However, we likely won’t know a true ruling until the Florida Supreme Court weighs in on the constitutionality of applying the new law to old cases.

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“This is going to be decided by the [Florida] Supreme Court, and maybe other courts will pass on it as well,” said Luke Newman, a board-certified specialist of criminal appeals.

Action News Jax will be in the courtroom and will give you the latest as we get it.

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