Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s successive motion for postconviction relief under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief pursuant to Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), nor was he entitled to relief on his other claims. Appellant was convicted of the 1992 first-degree murder of his wife. The jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of seven to five. The trial court imposed a sentence of death. Appellant later filed a successive motion to vacate his death sentence in light of Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst. The circuit court summarily denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant’s sentence became final prior to Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), Appellant was not entitled to Hurst relief. View "Spencer v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the First District Court of Appeal affirming the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to vacate his 1000-year sentences with parole eligibility pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.850, holding that Defendant’s sentences did not violate the categorical rule of Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). Defendant committed nonhomicide crimes at age seventeen and received concurrent sentences of 1000 years. The Parole Commission, after eleven review hearings, calculated a presumptive parole release date of 2352. After the United States Supreme Court decided Graham and Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Defendant filed a motion to vacate his sentences pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.850, arguing that his sentences violated the Eighth Amendment as delineated in Graham. The trial court denied the motion, and the First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to resentencing under chapter 2014,200, Laws of Florida. View "Franklin v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that juvenile offenders’ sentences of life with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years do not violate the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as delineated by the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida, 460 U.S. 48 (2010), Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012), and related cases, and therefore, such juvenile offenders are not entitled to resentencing under Fla. Stat. 921.1402. Appellee was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and related crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. Appellee was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years for the murder. Appellee later filed a motion for postconviction relief asserting that he was entitled to relief under Miller. The trial court summarily denied the motion, determining that Miller was inapplicable because Appellee had the opportunity for release on parole. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that resentencing was required. The Supreme Court quashed the Fourth District’s opinion, holding that juvenile offenders’ sentences of life with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years do no violate Graham’s requirement that juvenile have a meaningful opportunity to receive parole. View "State v. Michel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court dismissing the postconviction proceedings brought by Appellant, a prisoner under sentence of death, but not discharging counsel, holding that the postconviction court’s order was not erroneous. Appellant was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery. The jury recommended sentence of death by a vote of seven to five, and the trial court imposed a sentence of death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion to vacate judgments of conviction and sentence of death pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. After concluding that Appellant sought to waive the postcondition proceedings, the postconviction court dismissed the postconviction motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Appellant’s waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent, and therefore, valid, and the postconviction court properly allowed Appellant to waive the instant proceedings while maintaining counsel. View "Davis v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s sentence of death after resentencing, holding that any error in Defendant’s resentencing did not taint the jury’s recommendation for death. Defendant was convicted for the 1990 first-degree murder of Donna Burnell. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death after the new penalty phase jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of twelve to zero. On appeal, Defendant raised several claims, including a Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 claim and a claim that his death sentence was disproportionate. The Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, holding (1) Defendant’s arguments either involved no errors or errors that were harmless and not prejudicial; and (2) the cumulative effect of any errors did not deprive Defendant of a fair penalty phase hearing. View "Lowe v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the League of Women Voters and enjoining Kenneth Detzner, Secretary of the Florida Department of State, from placing Revision 8 on the ballot for the November 2018 general election, holding that the ballot language was defective. The revision at issue sought to revise Article IX, Section 4(b) of the Florida Constitution and allow the power to authorize new charter schools to be assigned to any of a variety of potential public or private entities, rather than district school boards. The circuit court concluded that both the ballot text and summary failed to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of the proposal and that the ballot summary was affirmatively misleading. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ballot summary failed to inform voters of the revision’s true meaning and ramifications, and therefore, the ballot language was clearly and conclusively defective. View "Detzner v. League of Women Voters of Florida" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s orders summarily denying Appellant’s fifth and sixth successive motions for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, the postconviction court's order denying Appellant’s motion to amend his sixth successive postconviction motion, and the postconviction court's order denying Appellant’s motion to correct illegal sentence filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.800(a), holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on his claims. Appellant was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Pending before the Supreme Court were Appellant’s challenges to the summary denials of his fifth and sixth successive postcondition motions and the denials of his motion to correct illegal sentence and motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s orders, holding that Appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "Jimenez v. State" on Justia Law

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The circuit court denied Zakrzewski’s motion under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, seeking relief pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Hurst v. Florida. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief, concluding that its prior denial of Zakrzewski’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising similar claims is a procedural bar to the claims at issue. All of Zakrzewski’s claims depend upon the retroactive application of Hurst, to which the court has held he is not entitled. View "Zakrzewski v. Florida" on Justia Law

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Lynch pled guilty to two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, one count of armed burglary of a dwelling, and one count of kidnapping, all stemming from the 1999 deaths of Morgan and her 13-year-old daughter. Lynch’s counsel recommended that he waive a penalty phase jury because a jury would be more emotional and unsympathetic to mitigation presented for the murder of a child than a seasoned trial judge. Lynch waived his right to a penalty phase jury. The court sentenced Lynch to death. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Lynch’s petition for certiorari. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of Lynch’s initial motion for postconviction relief and denied his petition for habeas corpus. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Lynch’s petition for federal habeas relief and, in 2016, the Supreme Court denied Lynch’s petition for certiorari to the Eleventh Circuit. Lynch filed a successive motion for postconviction relief, citing Hurst v. State. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief. Lynch is not entitled to Hurst relief in light of his valid waiver of a penalty phase jury. Lynch argued, that the test for prejudice under the Strickland standard for ineffective assistance has changed post-Hurst. The court stated that trial counsel is not required to anticipate changes in the law in order to provide effective legal representation. View "Lynch v. Florida" on Justia Law

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Andres was convicted of first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault or battery, first-degree arson, and armed robbery for crimes that resulted in the death of the occupant of a Miami apartment where Andres was performing renovation work. After the penalty phase, the jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of nine to three. The court imposed a sentence of death. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed Andres’ conviction for first-degree murder but vacated his death sentence. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to conduct a full Richardson hearing after determining that a witness’s trial testimony was merely a clarification of his prior deposition testimony. The court also rejected claims concerning evidentiary rulings and alleged improper burden shifting. The court remanded for a new penalty phase. Andres’ sentence was imposed under the capital sentencing scheme found to violate the Sixth Amendment in the Supreme Court’s holding, Hurst v. Florida, The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a death sentence. A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough. The court imposed Andres’ death sentence following the jury’s nonunanimous recommendation of death. It is not clear why the dissenting jurors voted for a life sentence, so the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Andres v. Florida" on Justia Law