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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, vacated his sentence of death, and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding that Petitioner’s death sentence violated Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for two counts of first-degree murder. A jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of eight to four. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to death for both murders. The Supreme Court concluded that the Hurst error that occurred during the penalty phase was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and that the matter must be remanded for a new penalty phase proceeding consistent with Hurst. View "Doorbal v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Law enforcement officers may detain the passengers of a vehicle for the reasonable duration of a traffic stop without violating the Fourth Amendment. Defendant was one of two passengers in a vehicle stopped for a faulty taillight and a stop sign violation. Defendant was subsequently arrested for violation of probation. During the search incident to arrest, cocaine was recovered from Defendant’s pocket. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that he was illegally detained during the traffic stop. The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeal affirmed, ruling that “an officer may, as a matter of course, detain a passenger during a lawful traffic stop without violating the passenger’s Fourth Amendment rights.” The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that the seizure of Defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "Presley v. State" on Justia Law

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Home health referral sources can be a protected legitimate business interest under Fla. Stat. 542.335. In these two cases consolidated for review before the Supreme Court, both Employees were former employees of licensed home health care companies. Both Employees engaged in conduct in violation of their non-compete compliment contracts by working for direct competitors of their prior employers within the non-compete territories during the relevant periods. Because a contract providing restrictions on competition must involve a legitimate business interest as defined by statute to be enforceable, at issue was whether home health service referral sources can be a protected legitimate business interest under section 542.335 sufficient to support a restriction on competition in a contract. The Supreme Court held that home health service referrals may be a protected legitimate business interest depending on the context and proof adduced. View "White v. Mederi Caretenders Visiting Services of Southeast Florida, LLC" on Justia Law

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The trial court properly denied Petitioner’s request for a second-degree arson instruction as a lesser included offense of first-degree arson because the trial evidence did not entitle Defendant to such an instruction. A jury found Petitioner guilty of first-degree murder, arson, and robbery. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment for first-degree murder. The district court affirmed, rejecting Petitioner’s contention that he was entitled a jury instruction on second-degree arson of a structure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly denied Petitioner’s requested instruction because this case did not present the trial court with any evidence to support a second-degree arson instruction. View "Stevens v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first-degree murder but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase. The court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence of the victim’s drug use; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by not conducting an inquiry into counsel’s effectiveness pursuant to Nelson v. State, 274 So. 2d 256 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973); (4) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was not cognizable on direct appeal; (5) competent, substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Defendant was not intellectually disabled; but (6) in light of a ten-to-two jury recommendation for death, error pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), occurred in this case, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Glover v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of quo warranto filed by Petitioner, the state attorney for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, challenging Governor Rick Scott’s authority to reassign the prosecution of death penalty eligible cases in the Ninth Circuit to the state attorney for Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit. The Governor reassigned the prosecution of death penalty eligible cases pending in the Ninth Circuit after Petitioner announced her intent to implement a blanket policy of not seeking the death penalty in any eligible case. The Supreme Court held that the Governor did not abuse his discretion in reassigning the cases at issue to the state attorney for Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit pursuant to Fla. Stat. 27.14. View "Ayala v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Manslaughter is a category one lesser included offense of second-degree felony murder. The Fourth District Court of Appeal granted Defendant’s motion to certify to the Supreme Court the question of whether manslaughter is a necessarily lesser included offense of second-degree felony murder after Defendant appealed his conviction of second-degree felony murder and burglary. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his request for an instruction on manslaughter as a lesser included offense of second-degree felony murder. The Supreme Court answered the appellate court’s certified question in the affirmative, holding that manslaughter is a necessarily lesser included offense of second-degree felony murder. View "Dean v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Where the right to contract has been removed under Fla. Stat. 744.3215(2)(a), the ward is not required to obtain court approval prior to exercising the right to marry, but court approval is necessary before such a marriage can be given legal effect. Under section 744.3215(2)(a), even when a guardianship court does not remove an incapacitated person’s right to marry, the right to marry becomes subject to court approval when his or her right to contract has been removed. At issue was whether court approval must be obtained before the incapacitated person marries. The Supreme Court answered the question certified to it by the Fourth District Court of Appeal by holding (1) any marriage entered into by a ward whose right to contract has been removed without court approval is invalid; but (2) section 744.3215(2)(a) does not prevent the ward or the intended spouse from seeking court approval after marrying in order to ratify the marriage. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentences of death imposed for his convictions of first-degree murder and remanded for a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) and Mosley v. State, 209 So. 3d 1248 (Fla. 2016), holding that the jury’s nonunanimous recommendation of death by a vote of seven to five as to both murders was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The court thus reversed the postconviction court’s order denying postconviction relief as to the penalty phase of Defendant’s trial but affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying postconviction relief as to the guilt phase. The court also denied Defendant’s habeas petition to the extent he sought relief pursuant to Hurst and affirmed the postconviction court’s denial of Defendant’s successive motion to vacate judgment and sentence. View "Gregory v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and death sentences for the first-degree murders of a mother and her two children. The court held (1) the trial court did not err in concluding that the “particularly vulnerable” aggravator was proven beyond a reasonable doubt as to the murders of the two children; (2) the trial court did not err in finding that the especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravator applied to one of the children’s murder; (3) Defendant’s challenges to the sufficiency of the sentencing order were unavailing; (4) any error in the trial court’s failure to consider parole ineligibility as a mitigating circumstance was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (5) Defendant’s guilty pleas were knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered; (6) the death sentences were proportionate; and (7) Defendant was not entitled to relief under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016). View "Covington v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law