Miami man accused of double murder must be tried by a jury of 12, appeals court rules

A man accused of murdering his wife and her brother must be judged by a jury of 12 people, not six, a Miami appeals court ruled Thursday.

The decision by the Third District Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mark Blumstein, who insisted that Ivan Wong be tried by a jury of six people — even though both prosecutors and defense attorneys wanted the larger group of jurors.

Wong is accused of murdering his wife, Mabel Figueroa, and her brother, Michel Figueroa, in December 2013 after she decided to leave him.

He is charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors last year waived the death penalty but Wong still faces a mandatory life prison sentence if convicted.

Blumstein, however, claimed last week that the case was no longer considered “capital” because execution was no longer a possible punishment. The jury selection was halted as prosecutors decided to file an emergency appeal.

The State Attorney’s Office, mindful that a conviction could get overturned and traumatized witnesses might have to testify again at a second trial, agreed with defense lawyers that Wong deserved a 12-person jury.

The Third DCA agreed, saying it still remained a “capital” case. “Although the state has waived the death penalty, the defendant has not waived his right to a twelve-person jury,” appeals Judge Eric Hendon wrote in the three-page opinion.

Wong returns to court on Friday so that lawyers can choose a date to resume the trial.