Ronnie Oneal III, the Hillsborough County man accused of killing his wife and daughter, told prospective jurors he believes in the death penalty while addressing them in court Tuesday.
“When it comes to the death penalty, I just want to let you all know that, me personally, I am for it. If somebody has committed these crimes, they are worthy of death," he said.
Oneal added that he wanted the prospective jurors to feel comfortable making the "right decisions" knowing his personal beliefs and how he was raised.
If convicted, Oneal III faces the death penalty for the 2018 deadly shooting of his wife, stabbing his 9-year-old daughter to death and stabbed his 8-year-old son, according to investigators. His son was the only one to survive.
Following the comment, the judge did step in to inform Oneal III his time to address the people who could potentially decide his fate was not the time for him to discuss "personal beliefs but to focus on the prospective jurors and what their beliefs are."
Oneal III shared the severity of the case with the prospective jurors and asked several questions pertaining to their ability to serve on his case.
“This is a very, very serious trial not only for me but my family and also—it would be for any particular jurors that are selected to be jurors in this case because ultimately my life is on the line," he said.
Concern was also expressed by Oneal III about the jury being able to make a rational decision on what is and isn't reasonable given their job in deciding if he is guilty of the charges he faces beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prospective jurors were also questioned on their ability to keep an open mind, make the "right" decision and if they could look at the "explicit evidence" by Oneal III.
“These are very serious charges. You don’t just want to exonerate somebody from these kind of charges without making a really, really in depth—giving it some really, really in-depth thought, if you know what I mean," he said. " Also, you don’t just want to put somebody to death without giving it really, really long thought.”
To close, Oneal III stressed that he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and urged the prospective jurors to give him a fair trial. The judge expects opening arguments to begin on June 14, but that could change.
“This is explicit evidence and my life is on the line. I am not guilty until proven guilty. I am innocent until proven guilty," Oneal III explained.
Oneal III is representing himself in his case, but a public defender is expected to be on standby in the case that he changes his mind.
In April 2018, Oneal III pleaded not guilty. The State Attorney's Office announced one month later it would seek the death penalty but Oneal III was found not competent to stand trial. In May 2019, the Department of Children and Families sent a letter to the judge saying, "the treatment staff are of the opinion that this resident is competent to proceed and no longer meets criteria for continued involuntary commitment."
The judge ruled the following month that Oneal was competent to stand trial.
Oneal faces two charges of first-degree premeditated murder, a first-degree arson charge, a charge for resisting an officer without violence and two charges of aggravated child abuse. He also faces an attempted murder charge after authorities say he nearly killed his son the same night.
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