Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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 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 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 denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Petitioner, a prisoner under a sentence of death for the murders of two victims. The court held (1) Petitioner was not entitled to a cumulative review of evidence supporting his alleged actual and legal innocence under due process principles; (2) Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claim that he was denied his fundamental right to testify; and (3) Petitioner was not entitled to relief on his claim that he was unconstitutionally denied access to materials that may contain DNA evidence. View "Lambrix v. Jones" on Justia 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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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 affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying Robert Peterson post-conviction relief as to the guilt phase of Peterson’s criminal trial and denied Peterson’s separate habeas petition. The court, however, concluded that Peterson was entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder and evidence tampering and was sentenced to death. The jury recommended death by a vote of seven to five. Peterson appealed the denial of his postconviction motion. The Supreme Court held (1) Peterson was not entitled to relief as to his ineffective assistance of guilt phase counsel claim; but (2) the Hurst error during Peterson’s penalty phase was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, warranting a new penalty phase proceeding. View "Peterson v. State" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found on his cell phone by arresting officers pursuant to a search incident to arrest, relying on the holding in Smallwood v. State, 113 Wo. 3d 724 (Fla. 2013) that warrantless cell phone searches are unconstitutional. The First District Court of Appeal reversed, relying on Davis v. United States 564 U.S. 229 (2011) to conclude that because the officers relied in good faith on the holding in Smallwood v. State, 61 So. 3d 448 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), the appellate precedent at the time of the search, the evidence was not subject to the exclusionary rule based on the good-faith exception. The Supreme Court disapproved the First District’s decision and held that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply to the officers’ warrantless search of Defendant’s cell phone because the officers were not relying on the type of longstanding, thirty-year appellate precedent at issue in Davis, but rather, on a non-final, pipeline case still under active review in the Supreme Court at the time of the search. View "Carpenter v. State" on Justia Law

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Harrel Franklin Braddy was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes. After a penalty phase, the jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court sentenced Braddy to death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Braddy then filed a motion for postconviction relief, asserting eight claims. The postconviction court denied Braddy’s claims. Braddy appealed the denial of postconviction relief and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s denial of relief for a new guilt phase and denied the claims in Braddy’s habeas petition with the exception of his claim for relief under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016), holding that Braddy was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence and the fact that it could not be said that the failure to require a unanimous verdict was harmless. View "Braddy v. State" on Justia Law

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Michael Duane Zack, III was found guilty of the sexual assault, robbery, and first-degree murder of Ravonne Smith. After a penalty phase hearing, the jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendation. This appeal concerned Zack’s second successive postconviction motion in which he raised a claim of intellectual disability based on Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. __ (2014). The trial court summarily denied the motion. Zack appealed the denial of postconviction relief and also petitioned for habeas corpus relief. The Supreme Court held (1) with regard to Zack’s postconviction motion, the trial court did not err in summarily denying Zack an evidentiary hearing on his intellectual disability claim and in determining that Defendant did not satisfy the subaverage intellectual functioning prong; and (2) Zack was not entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) because Hurst does not apply retroactively to cases, such as Zack’s, that were final before the Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 582 (2002). View "Zack v. State" on Justia Law