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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order summarily denying Appellant’s first successive motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. Appellant was convicted of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder. Following a penalty phase bench trial and a Spencer hearing, the trial court sentenced Appellant to death for each of the murders. This appeal concerned the denial of Appellant’s first successive postconviction motion in which Appellant raised several claims in light of Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant validly waived the right to a penalty phase jury, and Appellant’s arguments did not compel departing from precedent denying Hurst relief to defendants that have waived the right to a penalty phase jury. View "Allred v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this appeal from an order entered on Defendant’s postconviction motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death and related convictions and sentences, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the postconviction court’s order granting Defendant a new guilt phase but affirmed the portions of the postconviction court’s order granting Defendant a new penalty phase. The court held that the postconviction court (1) erred in granting relief on Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims regarding the voluntariness and reliability of Defendant’s written statement to the police detailing his involvement in the victim’s death and trial counsel’s guilt phase investigation; and (2) did not err in finding that trial counsel was ineffective for failing adequately to investigate and prepare for the penalty phase. As to Defendant’s cross-appeal, the Supreme Court held that the postconviction court (1) did not err to the extent that it denied four of Defendant’s postconviction claims; and (2) did not err in declining to conduct a cumulative error analysis. View "State v. Morrison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s summary denial of Appellant’s successive motion for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. In his motion, Appellant, a prisoner under sentence of death, raised five claims of newly discovered evidence or Brady violations. The court held (1) all of Appellant’s claims were properly denied by the trial court; and (2) where the only additional evidence presented in this proceeding potentially admissible in any retrial was that regarding evidence addressed in claim two, and there was no reasonable probability that, had this evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the trial would have been different, Appellant was not entitled to a new trial when all of the allegations presented in this proceeding were considered cumulatively. View "Suggs v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court in this case struck certain unconstitutional language from the 2013 amendments to Fla. Stat. 766.106 and 766.1065, which authorized secret, ex parte interviews to the list of informal discovery devices to which a medical malpractice claimant seeking redress must consent, holding (1) the right to privacy in the Florida Constitution attaches during the life of a citizen and is not retroactively destroyed by death, and this constitutional protection shields irrelevant, protected medical history and other private information from the medical malpractice litigation process; (2) in the wrongful death context, standing in the position of the decedent, the administrator of the decedent’s estate has standing to assert the decedent’s privacy rights; and (3) the Legislature unconstitutionally conditioned a plaintiff’s right of access to courts for redress of injuries caused by medical malpractice, whether in the wrongful death or personal injury context, on the claimant’s waiver of the constitutional right to privacy. View "Weaver v. Myers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the findings of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) that Judge Philip James Yacucci, Jr., a county court judge in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, violated Canons 1, 2A, 3B(8), 3B(8) and 3(E)(1) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. The court also approved the JQC’s recommended discipline of a public reprimand, a thirty-day suspension without pay, completion of a judicial ethics course within one year, and payment of the costs of the JQC proceedings. Before the court, Judge Yacucci disputed only the recommendation of a thirty-day suspension. The Supreme Court concluded that, in light of Judge Yacucci’s conduct, suspension was an appropriate sanction. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Philip James Yacucci, Jr." on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply to law enforcement officers’ warrantless search of Petitioner’s cell phone in this case. Petitioner was charged with one count of traveling to meet a minor to commit an unlawful sex act, one count of soliciting a minor to commit an unlawful sex act, and three counts of transmission of material harmful to a minor. At the time of Petitioner’s arrest, the arresting officers conducted a search incident to arrest and seized his cell phone. Petitioner filed a motion to suppress the evidence found on his cell phone, arguing that the warrantless search violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court granted the motion to suppress, relying on the holding in Smallwood v. State (Smallwood II), 113 So. 3d 724 (Fla. 2013), that warrantless cell phone searches are unconstitutional. The First District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that because the officers were relying in good faith on the holding in Smallwood v. State (Smallwood I), 61 So. 3d 448 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229(2011), the good-faith exception did not apply in this case. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s third and fourth successive motions for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Appellant’s motions for stay of execution. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s challenge to the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol; (2) the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s challenges to the power of the Governor to sign death warrants; (3) the circuit court properly found that Appellant’s claim that his sentence was disproportionate was procedurally barred; (4) the circuit court properly sustained the State’s objections to disclosure of certain records; and (5) the circuit court properly rejected Appellant’s various Hurst challenges. View "Hannon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s third and fourth successive motions for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Appellant’s motions for stay of execution. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s challenge to the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol; (2) the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s challenges to the power of the Governor to sign death warrants; (3) the circuit court properly found that Appellant’s claim that his sentence was disproportionate was procedurally barred; (4) the circuit court properly sustained the State’s objections to disclosure of certain records; and (5) the circuit court properly rejected Appellant’s various Hurst challenges. View "Hannon v. State" on Justia Law

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In this copyright dispute involving the satellite-radio broadcasting of certain pre-1972 sound recordings, the Supreme Court accepted for review four questions of Florida law certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The dispute specifically concerned rights of sound recordings of performances of musical works as distinct from rights in the composition of such works, and the primary question presented was whether Florida common law recognizes an exclusive right to public performance in pre-1972 sound recordings. The Supreme Court combined and rephrased the first two certified question into a single determinative question and held (1) Florida common law does not recognize an exclusive right of public performance in pre-1972 sound recordings; and (2) Plaintiff’s remaining claims failed under Florida law. View "Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court analyzed the significance of the constitutional provision that voters added in 2004 ("Amendment 7"), specifically, the “right to have access to any records made or received in the course of business of a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.” Fla. Const. art. X, 25(a). The court ultimately concluded that the external peer review reports at issue in this case were discoverable under Amendment 7, holding (1) Amendment 7 was aimed at eliminating all discovery restrictions on “any records…relating to any adverse medical incident”; (2) the external peer review reports at issue in this case contained information on adverse medical incidents that fell within the purview of Amendment 7; and (3) the reports at issue here were the type that are “made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider,” see article X, section 25(a). View "Edwards v. Thomas" on Justia Law