Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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