Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death, holding that the postconviction court did not err in denying Appellant's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to move to an improper comment made during closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. After the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction and death sentence, Appellant filed his initial motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court found that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) . The postconviction court then held an evidentiary hearing on Appellant’s claims premised upon allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and denied the claims. Appellant appealed the denial of his claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to an improper comment made during the State’s closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. The Supreme Court held that the postconviction court did not err in denying this claim. View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that the postconviction court properly denied the claims. Appellant was sentenced to death for the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings. Appellant filed an amended motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, which included a claim for relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The postconviction court summarily denied relief on Appellant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims but granted a new penalty phase based on his Hurst claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record positively refuted Appellant’s claim ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to renew his motion for change of venue; and (2) the postconviction court properly denied Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to challenge the indictment as legally insufficient. View "Gonzalez v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s convictions for aggravated assault, attempted sexual battery, and burglary with an assault or battery, which arose during a single criminal episode, did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. The Fourth District Court of appeal held that because burglary with an assault or battery does not necessarily include an aggravated assault or attempted sexual battery, Defendant’s convictions did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. The Supreme Court approved the decision below and disapproved conflicting decisions to the extent that they conflicted with this opinion, holding that Defendant’s convictions were different offenses, prohibited by different statutes, and criminalized different conduct, and therefore, the convictions did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. View "Tambriz-Ramirez v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the postconviction court’s denial of Eric Kurt Patrick’s motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and granted Patrick’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, which raised a valid claim under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). In 2009, Patrick was convicted of kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder. Patrick’s jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of seven to five. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendation. The Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, Patrick filed his motion for postconviction relief and then amended his motion to add a Hurst v. Florida claim. The postconviction court denied the motion in its entirety. As to the Hurst v. Florida claim, the postconviction court noted that the Supreme Court had not yet determined whether the holding would have retroactive effect. Patrick appealed and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, requesting relief under Hurst v. Florida and Hurst. The Supreme Court vacated Patrick’s death sentence and granted Patrick a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida and Hurst in accordance with his petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Hurst error in Patrick’s sentencing was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Patrick v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court denying Appellant’s successive motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, in which Appellant claimed newly discovered evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel, Brady and Giglio violations, and violation of Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616, and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The postconviction court summarily denied Appellant’s claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the summary denial of Appellant’s successive motion for postconviction relief, holding (1) the evidence proffered by Appellant in support of his newly discovered evidence claim was not newly discovered evidence; and (2) Appellant’s remaining claims were without merit. View "Taylor v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court withdrew its opinion issued on January 24, 2018 in this case and substituted this opinion in its place, holding that the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. Appellant’s motion sought relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and this court’s decision on remand in Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court held that Appellant’s valid waiver of postconviction proceedings and counsel in 2008 precluded him from claiming a right to relief under Hurst. Moreover, even if Appellant’s postconviction waiver did not preclude him from raising a Hurst claim, Hurst would not apply retroactively to Appellant’s sentence of death. View "Trease v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to vacate sentences of death under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. The jury in Appellant’s case unanimously recommended death. In this successive postconviction motion, Appellant argued that his death sentences violated the Sixth Amendment in light of Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), and Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) and that his death sentences violated the Eighth Amendment under Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320 (1985), and must be vacated in light of Hurst, Hurst v. Florida, and Perry v. State, 210 So. 3d 630 (Fla. 2016). The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Hurst error in this case was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) Hurst-induced Caldwell claims against the standard jury instruction do not provide an avenue for Hurst relief; and (3) the circuit court properly denied Appellant’s Eighth Amendment Caldwell claim. View "Reynolds v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court denying Appellant’s successive postconviction motion to vacate a sentence of death under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. In his successive motion, Appellant claimed that his death sentence violated the Sixth Amendment in light of Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), and Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) and violated the Eighth Amendment under Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320 (1985). The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order summarily denying Appellant’s successive motion for postconviction relief, holding (1) any Hurst error in this case was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) Appellant’s Caldwell claim was procedurally barred because it was raised and rejected on direct appeal. View "Taylor v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder and kidnapping but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for the imposition of a life sentence without eligibility for parole based on Defendant’s performance of his part of his agreement with the State. In the agreement, the State agreed not to seek the death penalty if Defendant agreed to lead investigators to the body. After the body was discovered, the State filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty. The trial court subsequently denied Defendant’s motion to enforce the agreement. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to prohibit the State from seeking the death penalty. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that once Defendant performed his end of the bargain with the State, the State was obligated to uphold its end of the agreement. As to Defendant’s remaining arguments concerning his conviction, the Supreme Court denied relief. The Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions for the trial court to reduce Defendant’s death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was entitled to a new penalty phase proceeding pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) and Mosley v. State, 209 So. 3d 1248 (Fla. 2016) and based on his claim of ineffective assistance of penalty phase counsel. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes. The jury recommended a sentence of death for the murder by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court imposed a sentence of death. Defendant later filed a motion to vacate judgment of conviction and sentence pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. The postconvcition denied all claims, concluding that penalty phase counsel was deficient but that Defendant was not prejudiced as a result. Defendant appealed and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016). The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of postconvcition relief but granted the petition for writ of habeas corpus, vacated Defendant’s death sentence, and remanded, holding (1) trial counsel was deficient for failing to discover paternal neglect, paternal abuse, and the extent of paternal substance abuse, and the deficiency was prejudicial; and (2) the failure to require a unanimous verdict regarding the sentence of death was not harmless. View "Ellerbee v. State" on Justia Law