Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Mark Asay’s third successive motion for postconviction relief and denied Asay’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court also denied Asay’s motion for a stay of execution and his application for a stay of execution. Asay, a prisoner under a sentence of death, alleged in his third petition for postconviction relief that he was denied access to public records, that the new lethal injection protocol was unconstitutional, that the manner in which the execution was reset violated due process, and that Fla. Stat. 922.06 is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of these claims, holding that Asay did not demonstrate that he was entitled to relief on his claims. Further, the court held that Asay did not present a basis for relief in his habeas claims attacking the constitutionality of his death sentences based on the nonunanimous verdicts because Asay did not present a novel claim for the court’s consideration. View "Asay v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order summarily denying Appellant’s successive postconviction motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. Appellant, a prisoner whose death sentence became final in 2000, argued that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on remand in Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), rendered his death sentence unconstitutional. The circuit court concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision in Asay v. State, 210 So. 3d 1 (Fla. 2016), precluded relief because Appellant’s death sentence was final when the United States Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant’s arguments did not compel departing from precedent. View "Hitchcock v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first-degree murder, vacated his death sentence, and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s convictions but that, under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), Defendant was entitled to a new penalty phase. After a trial, the jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of ten to two for Defendant’s murder conviction. Upon weighing the aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced Defendant to death. The Supreme Court held (1) competent, substantial evidence supported Defendant’s convictions under both premeditated murder and felony murder; (2) death was a proportionate punishment in this case; but (3) considering the nonunanimous jury recommendation and reasoning, there was a sentencing error under Hurst, and the error was not harmless. View "Jeffries v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, vacated Petitioner’s death sentence, and remanded to the circuit court for a new penalty phase. In his habeas petition, Petitioner sought relief under Hurst v. Florida, 477 U.S. __ (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court granted relief, holding (1) because the jury in Petitioner’s case recommended the death penalty by a vote of eleven to one, Petitioner’s death sentence violated Hurst; and (2) because it cannot be said that there is no reasonable possibility that the error did not contribute to the sentence, the Hurst error in Petitioner’s sentencing was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Bailey v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's first-degree murder conviction but reversed his sentence of death and remanded this case to the trial court for a new penalty phase. The court held (1) the trial court did not err by denying Appellant the opportunity to cross-examine DNA analysts regarding prior instances of contamination in analyses they conducted in other cases; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding testimony regarding an attempted auto burglary; (3) any error in admitting the Appellant’s wife’s statement to detectives was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing evidence of postmortem injuries; (5) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the first-degree murder conviction; and (6) in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). View "Sexton v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) Appellant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims were improperly raised on direct appeal; (2) the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant’s motion for the appointment of a crime scene expert; and (4) in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose the death sentence, Appellant’s death sentence must be reversed and the case remanded for a new penalty phase. View "Bargo v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant, an inmate under a sentence of death, appealed the denial of her motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief for a new guilt phase but granted Appellant a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The court vacated Appellant’s death sentences and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) Appellant’s ineffective assistance of guilt phase counsel claims failed; but (2) Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of a nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose death sentences. View "Cole v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying Appellant’s claims raised in his motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death, with the exception of Appellant’s ineffective assistance of penalty phase counsel claim, which the court did not address because Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The court vacated Appellant’s sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) regarding the non-unanimous jury recommendation to impose a sentence of death in this case, it cannot be said that the failure to require a unanimous verdict was harmless; (2) Appellant did not qualify as intellectually disabled under Florida law, and therefore, the postconviction court did not err when it denied Appellant’s claim that he was intellectually disabled; and (3) Appellant failed to establish that Fla. Stat. 27.7081 and Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 are unconstitutional either facially or as applied. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law