Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying in part Marvin Cannon's initial postconviction motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Cannon's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Cannon was not entitled to relief on his claims. Cannon was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes and sentenced to death. Cannon later filed his initial motion for postconviction relief, asserting that he was entitled to resentencing under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), that counsel was ineffective, and that the Department of Corrections' website reflected he was still serving a fifteen-year sentence for attempted robbery even though that conviction was vacated on direct appeal. The trial court agreed with Cannon's Hurst claim and vacated his death sentence but denied the remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Cannon was not denied constitutionally effective assistance of counsel and that the postconviction court properly denied Cannon's second claim. In his habeas petition, Cannon alleged ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that appellate counsel was not ineffective for failing to raise a procedurally barred claim. View "Cannon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence of death imposed in connection with his conviction for the murder of a fellow prison inmate, holding that Defendant's claims on appeal were without merit and that Defendant's death sentence was proportionate in comparison to other capital cases. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in failing to instruct the jury that it must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating factors were sufficient to warrant a death sentence and that they outweighed the mitigating factors; (2) the trial court adequately considered Defendant's request for a nonbinding recommendation to the Department of Corrections and did not act under any mistaken impression of the law; and (3) Defendant's sentence was proportional. View "Doty v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court denying Appellant's third successive motion for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Appellant's claims were procedurally barred as untimely. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Fourteen years later, Appellant filed his third successive postconviction motion, asserting that the State committed a Brady violation and a Giglio violation and, alternatively, that defense counsel was ineffective and that newly discovered evidence was likely to produce an acquittal at retrial. The postconviction court denied the claims on the merits after holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed but on other grounds, holding that the claims raised in Appellant's third successive postconviction motion were untimely because they because discoverable through due diligence more than a year before the motion was filed. View "Mungin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the First District Court of Appeal vacating Defendant's sentence and remanding for resentencing under the prior version of Fla. Stat. 775.082(1), which could have resulted in reimposition of Defendant's sentence without any findings by a jury or the trial court, holding that the proper remedy for harmful error resulting from the court, not the jury finding the fact of dangerousness under section 775.082(1) is to remand for resentencing. In Brown v. State, 260 So. 3d 147, 150 (Fla. 2018), the Supreme Court held that the portion of section 775.082(10) requiring the court, not the jury, to find the fact of dangerousness to the public necessary to increase the statutory maximum nonstate prison sanction violated the Sixth Amendment. At issue in this case was the proper remedy for harmful error resulting from the court finding the fact of dangerousness under the statute. The First District held that statutory revival was the proper remedy. The Supreme Court quashed the First District's decision, holding that the proper remedy is to remand for resentencing with instructions to either impose a nonstate sanction of up to one year in county jail or empanel a jury to make the determination of dangerousness, if the State so requests. View "Gaymon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's judgment ordering a new penalty phase proceeding after finding Defendant was entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), and rejecting Defendant's guilt-phase claim, holding that this Court must partially recede from Hurst. The jury in Defendant's case recommended death by a vote of eleven to one after unanimously finding that, during the course of the first-degree murder, Defendant committed related crimes. Defendant later filed his postconviction motion alleging that counsel was ineffective for conceding that Defendant committed the nonhomicide offenses for which he was convicted and that Defendant was entitled to resentencing because the jury did not make the findings required by Hurst. The trial court denied Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim but vacated Defendant's death sentence pursuant to Hurst. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) this Court recedes from Hurst except to the extent it requires a jury unanimously to find the existence of a statutory aggravating circumstance; and (2) under a correct understanding of Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), the requirement that a jury unanimously find a statutory aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt was satisfied in this case. View "State v. Poole" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing in part, denying in part, and granting in part Genghis Nicholas Kocaker's initial motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death and denied Kocaker's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court did not err and that Kocaker was not entitled to habeas relief. Kocaker was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Kocaker later filed a Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 motion to vacate his conviction and sentence, asserting, among other things, entitlement to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), because the jury's recommendation of death in his case was nonunanimougs. The State conceded that claim, vacated Kocaker's sentence, and summarily denied or dismissed Kocaker's remaining claims, either for mootness or on the merits. Kocaker appealed and also filed a petition for habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in finding Kocaker competent to proceed in postconviction; (2) the circuit court correctly denied Kocaker's ineffective assistance of counsel claims and Brady claim; and (3) Kocaker was not entitled to habeas corpus relief. View "Kocaker v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversing the trial court's decision denying Defendant's motion to correct his sentence on the grounds that the trial court could not impose investigative costs because the State had not requested them, as required by Fla. Stat. 938.27(1), holding that the State's request for investigative costs must occur before the judgment is rendered. The Fifth District held that the trial court erred in imposing costs of investigation in the absence of a request from the State but concluded that the State, on remand, should be given the opportunity to request the imposition of investigative costs. The Supreme Court quashed the Fifth District's opinion, holding that because the State failed to request investigative costs before the trial court pronounced sentence and entered Defendant's judgment the State's opportunity to request investigative costs has passed. View "Richards v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this advisory opinion, the Supreme Court answered a question asked by Governor Ron DeSantis regarding the interpretation of a portion of the Florida Constitution affecting his executive powers and duties by stating that it is in the Court's opinion that the phrase "all terms of sentence," as used in article VI, section 4, has an ordinary meaning that the voters would have understood to refer not only to durational periods but also to all legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. Specifically, the Governor requested advice regarding the meaning of language added to Fla. Const. art. VI, 4 by the approval of an initiative petition, commonly referred to as Amendment 4, that restored the voting rights of certain convicted felons "upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation." The Supreme Court answered that the phrase "all terms of sentence" encompasses not just durational periods but also all LFOs - fines, restitution, costs, and fees - imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt. View "Advisory Opinion to Governor re Implementation of Amendment 4, The Voting Restoration Amendment" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's third amended motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. This appeal concerned Appellant's second amended motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court noted that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) but denied the guilt-phase claims. The majority of the claims presented in Appellant's appeal alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Supreme Court denied the claims and affirmed the order of the postconviction court. The Court also denied Appellant's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Appellant's claim that comments made by the prosecutor tapped into racial stereotypes was procedurally barred and that Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel also failed. View "Martin v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling that a peremptory strike was constitutionally impermissible because it was based on the prospective juror's religion, holding that the issue of the constitutionality of a religion-based strike was not properly preserved in the trial court and that the district court erred in reversing on the basis of an unpreserved argument. The district court concluded that the trial court erred in allowing the peremptory strike of the prospective juror at issue, basing its decision in part on its conclusion that the strike involved an unconstitutional religious test. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that Defendant's religion-based objection to the strike was not properly preserved. View "State v. Pacchiana" on Justia Law