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Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013) requires a jury to make the factual finding under Fla. Stat. 775.082(1)(b) as to whether a juvenile offender actually killed, intended to kill, or attempted to kill the victim, but Alleyne violations are subject to harmless error review. Where an Alleyne error cannot be considered harmless, the proper remedy is to resentence the juvenile offender. Petitioner was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder and kidnapping. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole in twenty-five years for the murder. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed Petitioner’s sentence with respect to the murder conviction and remanded to the trial court with direction to make the factual determination as to whether Petitioner actually killed, intended to kill, or attempted to kill the victim. After a hearing, the trial court found that Petitioner both actually killed and intended to kill the victim. The court again sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment, but with a sentence review in twenty-five years. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) Alleyne requires the jury to make the factual finding at issue under section 775.082(1)(b); and (2) the Alleyne violation in this case was not harmless. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions for armed robbery and first-degree murder but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase. Following a third trial, Appellant was found guilty of both first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder. The jury recommended death by a vote of eleven to one, and the trial court sentenced Appellant to death in accordance with the jury’s recommendation. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in denying Appellant’s cause challenges to certain prospective jurors; (2) the trial court did not err when it allowed the State’s peremptory strike of a minority juror; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to strike the jury panel; (4) competent, substantial evidence supported Appellant’s convictions; but (5) Appellant was entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) because the jury did not unanimously recommend a sentence of death and the error was not harmless. View "Guzman v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions for two counts of first-degree murder and his sentences of death, holding that the trial court did not commit prejudicial error. Appellant pleaded guilty to the murder of his fiancee and pleaded no contest to the murder of their five-week old son. The court held (1) the trial court did not err in failing to order a competency evaluation prior to accepting Appellant’s plea; (2) the trial court did not err by failing to recuse itself upon Appellant’s motion to disqualify; (3) Appellant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered the pleas; and (4) the death sentences were proportionate in this case. View "Wall v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s summary denial of Eric Scott Branch’s second successive motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Branch’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Branch was not entitled to relief on his claims. Specifically, the court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Branch’s requests for public records pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.852; (2) the circuit court did not err when it summarily denied Branch’s claim that he was ineligible for the death penalty; (3) the circuit court properly rejected Branch’s claim that the length of time that he has spent on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment; and (4) Branch’s habeas claims were both procedurally barred and without merit. View "Branch v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s postconviction motion to vacate his sentence of death under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that any Hurst error during Appellant’s penalty phase proceedings was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant was convicted of attempted robbery and first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This appeal was from Appellant’s successive postconviction motion in which he claimed that his death sentence was unconstitutional under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) and that his death sentence violated the Eighth Amendment under Hurst v. Florida. The postconviction court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court properly denied relief on Appellant’s claims. View "Franklin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s postconviction motion to vacate his sentence of death under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that any Hurst error during Appellant’s penalty phase proceedings was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant was convicted of attempted robbery and first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This appeal was from Appellant’s successive postconviction motion in which he claimed that his death sentence was unconstitutional under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) and that his death sentence violated the Eighth Amendment under Hurst v. Florida. The postconviction court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court properly denied relief on Appellant’s claims. View "Franklin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s orders denying Appellant’s successive motion for postconviction relief, filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, and denying his demands for additional public records, filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.852. The court held (1) because Appellant’s successive motion was filed after the expiration of the relevant one-year time limitation and none of the exceptions to the one-year time limitation in Rule 3.851(d)(2) were applicable to the claims raised by Appellant in his successive postconviction motion, the postconviction court properly denied the successive motion as untimely; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s requests for additional public records. View "Hamilton v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s summary denial of Appellant’s postconviction motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 seeking sentencing relief under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Appellant, a prisoner under sentence of death who waived a penalty phase jury, argued that the waiver was not valid because he was incompetent at the time of the waiver. The circuit court summarily denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the time for Appellant to contest the prior competency determination had passed. View "Rodgers v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order denying Norberto Pietri’s motion filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Pietri was not entitled to relief pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and this court’s decision on remand in Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Pietri was sentenced to death following a jury’s recommendation for death by a vote of eight to four. Pietri’s sentence of death became final in 1995. The Supreme Court held that Hurst did not apply retroactively to Pietri’s sentence of death and, accordingly, affirmed the denial of Pietri’s motion. View "Pietri v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order denying Thomas M. Overton’s motion filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Overton was not entitled to relief pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and this court’s decision on remand in Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Overton was convicted of two counts of murder. Overton was sentenced to death on both counts following a jury’s recommendation for death by a vote of nine to three on one count and a vote of eight to four on another count. Overton’s sentence of death became final in 2002. The Supreme Court held that Hurst did not apply retroactively to Overton’s sentence of death and, accordingly, affirmed the denial of Overton’s motion. View "Overton v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law