Articles Posted in Constitutional 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 withdrew the opinion issued on January 22, 2018, and substituted this opinion in its place, reviewing Pressley Bernard Alston’s appeal of the circuit court’s order denying Alston’s motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and Alston’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Alston sought relief pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and the Supreme Court’s decision on remand in Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of relief and denied Alston’s habeas petition, holding that Alston’s waiver of postconviction proceedings and counsel precluded him from claiming a right to relief under Hurst. Moreover, even if Alston’s postconviction waiver did not preclude him from raising a Hurst claim, Hurst would not apply retroactively to Alston’s sentence of death, which became final in 1999. View "Alston 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 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree murder and other crimes but vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new penalty phase. After the penalty phase, the jury voted nine to three to recommend a sentence of death. The trial judge followed the jury’s recommendation. On appeal, Defendant raised seven allegations of error regarding guilt phase issues. The Supreme Court held that none of the issues warranted relief and that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s first-degree murder conviction. The court, however, concluded that Defendant’s death sentence violated Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016) and that the error in Defendant’s sentencing was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Lebron v. State" on Justia 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